‘Sorry, this seat’s taken’: Virgin Atlantic’s ‘Seat Plus’ lets you reserve empty seat beside you

Virgin Atlantic is trialling a new service that lets economy passengers pay a flat fee to sit beside an unoccupied seat.

Remember the good old days when you could stretch out across a row of economy class seats because the flight was half-empty?

These days you’re lucky if you can get both armrests to yourself.

Looking for extra legroom? Airlines now charge for premium seats in the front rows and by the emergency exits.

Hoping for an empty seat next to you? More airlines are making this possible, but expect to pay up.

Virgin Atlantic has become the latest airline to allow economy passengers to reserve an unoccupied seat beside them.

The airline is trialling the new service called ‘Seat Plus’ and is charging between £99 and £149 (one-way) for an empty seat, depending on the destination and length of the flight.

Anna Catchpole, a Virgin Atlantic spokesperson told Terminal U about the motives for the trial: “One of the top passenger requests during check-in is passengers asking to be assigned a seat which has an empty seat next to it.

“Seat Plus enables these customers to book and confirm this empty seat in advance in order for them to spread out on the aircraft and enjoy a little more room.”

Passengers will pay £149 for an extra seat on the airline’s popular London to New York route.

At the time of writing, the lowest return fare for travel in March is £418, so a passenger wanting two seats would be charged £567. This compares to £846 for the lowest equivalent fare in premium economy at today’s prices.

Seat Plus is not available on Virgin Atlantic flights from Tokyo and seats must be booked through the airline’s customer contact centre at least three days before the flight.

How could you use Seat Plus?

Those travelling alone could book two seats together by the window on board Virgin’s A330-300 or A340-600 jets, which seat economy passengers in a 2-4-2 layout. The cabin narrows at the back of the plane on both aircraft types to a 2-3-2 layout.

Couples could have a row of three to themselves on board Virgin’s 747-400 aircraft, which offer a 3-4-3 configuration.

Or a family of three could share a row of four seats by paying for the extra seat on a 747.

No-frills airline AirAsia X and Spanish budget airline Vueling also allow passengers to book unoccupied seats next to them for a fee.

Click here for more information on the Seat Plus trial.

To check the seating layout on your flight, go to Seatguru.com

Tell us: would you pay extra to have a free seat beside you? Do you think it’s worth the money? Drop us a comment, below.

What others have said

  1. Can’t find any reviews from people who’ve actually booked Seat Plus. Will report back here on the experience. MAN-MCO 21st October. £65 seems reasonable to ensure a spare seat between us two. I’ve also made a bid on the possibility of Premium Economy for the return journey.You only get to know if you’re successful at check in. I guess this is a way of VA getting cash for PE seats that would otherwise be empty. With this scheme the chance of an upgrade for free is unlikely.

  2. Have paid £65 for seat plus on Virgin Atlantic, Manchester-Orlando in October. Customer Services say it’s ‘guaranteed’. Only lose it in very exceptional circumstances, such as an earlier flight being cancelled. Seats will be allocated at check in. Cannot use online check in. Some say why pay for an empty seat that will be there anyway but £65 seems reasonable to ensure it’s next to me.

  3. Air New Zealand has a similar program. I flew ANZ from LA to London and had 3 seats that converted into a bed in economy. Loved it. Would definitely fly Virgin if they did the same.

  4. What a fabulous idea I would definitely fly Virgin anywhere if they introduce to all there international flights! I find economy squashy but can’t afford premium seats.
    Plwase consider it.

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