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80% of leading network airlines rely on a la carte fees from standard seat assignments


Big global airline brands such as Air Canada, Air France, American, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, and Singapore generate ancillary revenue from advance seat assignment across their entire networks.

DUBLIN, IRELAND & SHOREWOOD, WISCONSIN - For many airlines, revenue from seat assignment sales has moved up the income statement from a minor presence to a strong #2 spot. For some, this can be a billion-dollar result, and for every other airline it’s a multi-million-dollar business. Seat Assignment Fees Firmly on Airline Radars is sponsored by global travel tech provider CarTrawler. The IdeaWorksCompany 16-page analysis describes the methods deployed by airlines to encourage consumer acceptance and recommends four tools to maximize seat assignment revenue.

Key findings from the report:

  • More than half of leading airlines offer basic economy style fares which require payment of a fee to check a bag and very often for pre-assigned seating.
  • Southwest Airlines is unique among leading airlines for not offering seat assignments, instead allowing passengers to choose seats as they board aircraft.
  • Alaska Airlines breaks from US network airline practice by offering a limited number of pre-assigned seats to its saver fare (basic economy) travelers.
  • Seat assignment revenue disclosures were found to range from $6.63 per passenger on Spirit to $0.62 per passenger on Jin Air among LCCs.
  • Ryanair accommodates families by providing no-charge seat assignments for children when the adult pays a modest €4 to €6 fee; Singapore waives all standard seat fees for itineraries with children.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, our data insights tell us that ancillary revenue is taking on even more importance,” said Aileen McCormack, Chief Commercial Officer at CarTrawler. “More than ever before, customers will pay to travel in comfort and safety, and will prioritise airlines based on how well they can meet their needs. Seat assignment is a critical part of an airline’s ancillary revenue strategy, but for maximum benefit, airlines must complement this with a memorable and seamless customer experience across the board.”

The report includes a table summarizing the standard seat assignment fee policies for 20 top carriers.

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