Qantas now lets you pay to have an empty seat next to you

Pricing for the airline’s ‘Neighbour Free’ option begins at $30 on short-range flights.

By David Flynn, September 5 2022
Qantas now lets you pay to have an empty seat next to you

Something that makes flying in economy class more bearable is having an empty seat next to you, and Qantas will now let travellers pay to lock in that privilege rather than rely on luck.

Under the airline’s new Neighbour Free program, now being trialled on a handful of domestic routes, passengers will be able to ensure nobody is assigned the seat next to them.

This has long been a free benefit enjoyed by top-tier Platinum and Platinum One-grade frequent flyers, with the empty seat termed a ‘shadow’, but Neighbour Free puts a price on the perk.

According to the Australian Frequent Flyer forum, which first reported the trial, Qantas Neighbour Free prices will start from around $30 on the shortest domestic flights.

The longer the flight, such as between Australia’s east and west coasts, the higher the charge for that shadow: one Executive Traveller reader who has already taken advantage of the Neighbour Free offer between Perth and Brisbane cited a $60 charge.

Qantas says Neighbour Free will be offered only on selected flights – obviously those with enough seats remaining unsold – with travellers receiving an email invitation to take up the Neighbour Free option up to 48 hours before their flight.

After clicking through to their booking, they’ll select a highlighted Neighbour Free option next to their seat, provide their payment details (using a credit card – travel credit and those $50 flight vouchers are not accepted) and submit their request.

Passengers will see both their own seat and the Neighbour Free seat reservation appear on their boarding pass.

However, that empty seat can’t be used “for infant seating or to place items such as carry-on baggage, or musical instruments.”

Qantas notes that Neighbour Free “cannot be guaranteed as seats may need to be changed for operational, safety or security reasons, even after boarding the aircraft” – in which case, the fee paid to reserve that spare seat will be automatically refunded within two weeks.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

21 Jul 2019

Total posts 144

NZ has had a similar 'Neighbour-free' option for years (as part of a bigger economy fare package). When flying to the U.S. in economy I always took the option and it made an incredibly positive difference to my flight experience. I'm very pleased to see QF adopt this measure, but I wish it were for longer flights too (maybe in the future?). This is something that really only shines on long flights, not short hauls.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jan 2014

Total posts 316

So who is going to tell the person on the other side that the seat is yours, good luck with that, in my experience a spare seat and tray are quickly filled.

20 Jun 2020

Total posts 33

Your reserved seat is on the ticket unlike shadow seats.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

25 Jul 2013

Total posts 64

I have used a similar service on Etihad long haul many times ... it made a huge (positive) impact on my travel experience. Having 2 spare economy seats and being able to lie down is fantastic and worth paying a little extra for. 

14 Oct 2016

Total posts 3

I'm P and have never heard of this option. Does anyone know how to access it when booking a flight? News to me......

09 May 2017

Total posts 39

you don't access it, its automatically on your seating allocation unless you have chosen your seat next to people or the plane is full or requires load in that particular area of the plane.  Partner and I are also P and regularly get a seat between us empty if the plane isn't too full.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

08 Jun 2014

Total posts 258

Also used this featuring when flying with EY when they serviced PER. Although I’d did have to grab the canon crew on a few occasions when I booked a whole row in Y and someone joined at the end… EY did begin to place little fabric tags on the seat rests to state “Reserved” or something similar. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 239

As GBRGB has said who is going to tell the other passenger that the spare seat is yours.

My nice did this type of booking with Air NZ a few years ago and when on board was told that the spare seat was not just hers. Her booking stated that Air NZ would guarantee the seat next to her would be vacant but did not say it was exclusively hers to use.

It caused a lot of unpleasantness with the other y class passenger. 

09 May 2017

Total posts 39

This happened to me once when Q first brought in paying for exit aisle seats, I was asked by a flight attendant to swap with another tall passenger - I'm female and obviously smaller than he was. I had paid extra so refused and was given particularly dirty looks by the staff and I explained clearly that I had paid additional for that seat and that I expected to get what I paid for and that he had had the same opportunity. Very unpleasant experience.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Aug 2022

Total posts 13

How is this profitable. Shouldn’t they have to buy 2 seats for this to make any financial sense?

07 Mar 2017

Total posts 54

How is making money from an otherwise empty seat not profitable?

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 239

I think it's only available when there are surplus seats on the flight.

All this system does is that if you pay the fee and there's spare seats they will not allocate that spare next to you to anyone else in a booked economy seat. Doesn't cost them anything as they simply block it off for others to request or be issued by check in staff. The cunning thing is that the Y class passenger on the other side of the blocked off seat could well have also paid to have it blocked and thus 2 passengers end up paying for the one  seat that just gives them extra elbow room really.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

27 Jun 2013

Total posts 25

Rod H - spot on! Very cunning ploy to get some revenue that may have been previously lost (if seat not filled). I think this would only really work if two of you were traveling together, and hence you could truly enjoy that space without any trouble.

12 Aug 2020

Total posts 9

Just a clarification - as a Platinum booking in domestic economy, I can only see from row 6 up until the 80 hours ahead of the flight.

Also - does this mean Qantas could sell the same middle seat twice? Once to the window seat, and once to the aisle seat holder?

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 239

2paxfly. I would imagine that could be the case as is quoted in the review " the seat cannot be used for infant seating or to place carry on luggage or musical instruments on ". 

That means it's just extra empty space that's being paid for and a bit more privacy and there's no reason why It cannot be sold to  both the window seat Pax and the aisle seat pax as they would both get the extra elbow room and yet cannot use the seat. That's what happened to my niece with the NZ airline.

All this comment is based on a previous experience and may not necessarily apply to QF but also could easily apply as well.

Only QF would know unless you asked the other passenger if they also paid for this one seat to be empty.

14 Oct 2016

Total posts 3

I still can't see how you actually get access to this feature as a P QF member? Anyone know?

24 Nov 2020

Total posts 6

As stated in the article it’s by Invitation and selected flights only. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Nov 2019

Total posts 83

Excellent idea. I'd prefer to sit in Econ with a vacant seat than sit in Business. Only question is will you be eligible for two greasy egg fritattas or just one? 

30 Aug 2019

Total posts 1

This was available recently when I was flying Jetstar HNL to MEL. I paid USD$60 to block the seat next to me. This happened at check-in at HNL airport and was openly offered by the chef-in attendant. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 593

The way Qantas has been operating lately, I suspect there'll be quite a lot of empty seats on their flights anyway.  

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1447

Would be better if they setup "premium economy" where in 3 seats only 2 pax leaving middle free (aka "business" in Europe) and it will be guarantee?

07 Sep 2022

Total posts 1

Sadly with international flights being fully booked with many routes using smaller than pre-pandemic aircraft, this Q P benefit hasn't been as abundantly available. In particularly, flights to and from Delhi and SIngapore have been fully booked - I suspect this won't be alleviated until the larger planes are brought back on these routes.

13 May 2015

Total posts 26

Not sure if I’ve missed it above, but do we think this is in addition to Plats having their “shadow”, and if so, who gets priority - the Plat member or the paying customer?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Sep 2013

Total posts 187

My wife is a long time QF Platinum flyer.  Quite often she had an empty seat allocated next to her, which was then called a shadow.   Post CV19, and until things go back to normal. I suggest this perk won't be back, perhaps not at all.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 239

In a 3 across seat configuration unless the empty seat is an isle seat then both the window seat and aisle seat would benefit from the empty middle seat. That means if you pay for the empty middle seat then the other pax could get the same space as you but for free , unless they also pay.

07 Sep 2022

Total posts 1

Why isn't this just set up as an option at check-in (ie you can ask to have the middle seat kept vacant) Why do you have to pay?


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