New 'Neighbour-Free Seat' Option Lets Etihad Economy Passengers Bid on Empty Seats
Etihad Airways has said that it's going to allow economy passengers to bid for the luxury of having open seats next to them. The new option, which the Abu Dhabi-based carrier is calling "Neighbour-Free Seat," gives economy passengers the option to bid for up to three empty seats around them. Because, at the end of the day, if you're sitting in economy, sitting next to empty seats is about as good as it gets.
To get an empty seat — or a few — next to you, you'll start the bidding at the time of booking on Etihad's website. There's a minimum and a maximum bid for each seat, and Etihad Guest members will get priority over non members. If your bid is unsuccessful, you'll get an email within 32 hours of departure letting you know that you'll have neighbor(s). If your bid is indeed successful, you'll get an email from Etihad and you'll automatically be assigned a set — there's no choice involved. At this point, there's no indication as to how much the bids will start at.
With the Neighbour-Free Seat option, you can bid on one, two or three seats. In order to be eligible, you must have a confirmed ticket that starts with the numbers 607. In addition, "deals" fares, Guest Seat rewards, redemption tickets, group bookings, free tickets, tickets already upgraded using miles, multi-flyer tickets and tickets with an infant aren't eligible to bid on the Neighbour-Free Seat. To see the full terms and conditions of the Neighbour-Free Seat option, check out Etihad's website.
The ability for passengers to potentially create a more comfortable flying experience for themselves is a win, and the ability for Etihad to make use of unsold seats is a win for the carrier. Even though it announced that it's doing away with complimentary chauffeur service for its premium passengers on select routes, Etihad is giving economy passengers a way to make their trip more comfortable. Air New Zealand offers a very similar product with its Skycouch, a set of three seats with leg rests that swing up to create a bed or couch in the sky. While the couple extra seats might not be as nice as The Residence — or The Apartment — it's vastly better than being cramped next to several snoring neighbors.