Qantas, Virgin Australia ease the squeeze with 'comfort seat' bookings

By David Flynn, January 2 2014
Qantas, Virgin Australia ease the squeeze with 'comfort seat' bookings

If you're finding economy seats are a tighter squeeze than they used to be, maybe the airline isn’t to blame.

Some 60% of Australian are classified as overweight, according to the Australian Medical Association, while Melbourne’s Monash University suggests that more than five million Australians can be classified as obese.

A short-term solution for your next trip could be to book the seat next to yours so that it remains vacant, giving you a bit more personal space room – especially if you raise the armrest up out of the way.

It’s an arrangement which Qantas and Virgin Australia call a 'comfort seat' booking. And it’s as much about your own comfort as that of your potential seatmate (although despite being aimed at what Qantas calls 'customers of size', anybody can book a comfort seat).

Comfort seats are cheaper seats

A comfort seat costs slightly less than the normal seat, because neither Qantas or Virgin Australia levy the taxes and other surcharges applicable to a standard seat.

For example, Qantas' cheapest $327 economy seat on a Sydney-Perth flight includes some $50 in taxes and surcharges – so the cost of booking the seat next to yours as a comfort seat drops to around $280.

Qantas and Virgin Australia also let you earn frequent flyer points and status credits for your comfort seat, although those won’t be automatically credited to your frequent flyer account.

You'll need to contact the airline's respective frequent flyer service centre after your flight to ensure the extra points and credits are added to your account.

How to book a comfort seat

Comfort seats can’t be booked online – you’ll need to call the airline and make your spare seat booking over the phone.

It’s worth noting that this extra seat will be sold as the best available fare in the same fare category as your main booking, provided those fares are still available.

If you happen to book the last seat in a cheaper ticket category, you could end up paying quite a bit more for your comfort seat as it will be taken from the seats allocated to a higher fare bracket.

Also, because the booking is based on a pair of seats, you may not enjoy your usual pick of first row or exit row seats, and there’s less scope to change your seats once they are allocated to you.

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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - QFF Platinum

20 Mar 2012

Total posts 212

With this cost structure for a spare seat you must be getting close to a biz class flight fare?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2012

Total posts 315

Do you have to "Check-in" for this comfort seat? May be a bonus for those that are short a status credit or two, who dont have enough time to physically fly it. lol

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2209

I think you're onto something, the additional SCs! "Plus-sized status run"?


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 734

Could lead to an awkward situation. So here I book my seat next to me in a row of three, and there is another person taking the last seat. Do I tell him it is my seat as I booked it and I have sole use of it? Will I get a BP to prove it is mine?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Dec 2012

Total posts 38

"Comfort seat" is just being PC for those who otherwise will not fit comfortably/or at all in one Economy seat due to their physical size, not to enhance the average Joe's comfort. And because it's PC and a reservations attendant can't ask for a person's size/weight at booking, technically anyone can book them. But that doesn't mean the airline endorses this and if as an average sized person you use this option to book your neighbouring seat, as KG and cfj have mentioned above, you run into problems of having to give it up in case of oversales or damanged seats, etc. Or otherwise looking like a total tool claiming to whoever will listen that both seats are yours. Flight attendants though won't take your side if clearly you fit in one seat, as that's not why the comfort seat option really exists.

I think this article is a bit misleading in that regard..

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 May 2013

Total posts 73

Does the $50 tax/surcharge on the fare include things like meals, baggage etc? If not, that cost should be cut off the fare as well.... Actually, on second thought, if you're large enough to warrant a second seat you'll probably want the extra meal as well ;)


22 Aug 2013

Total posts 1

I was recently on a Vietnam Airlines flight from Sydney in economy when this scenario occured. My seat back screen was not working so I asked the flight attendant to move me, there were only a few empty seats available. He proceeded to move me to an 'available' seat where the screen did work which was next to a woman who said she had paid for the extra seat beside her. She did not put up much of a fight - she just sort of mentioned it to the flight attendant who insisted I should sit there and I proceeded to sit in her "comfort seat" for the duration of the flight.

 I have to say my thinking in this scenario was - what kind of idiot pays for an extra seat in economy? - airline travel just doesn't work that way! Surely anyone who has travelled before knows this - as soon as people see empty seats around they always rearrange themselves to make themselves more comfortable. Also having worked in the industry if a person is not physically there to claim a paid-for seat it is considered a no-show and it is often filled by staff or overbooked passengers etc.

That this is a practice at Qantas and Virgin is very surprising to me. I would like to know how at peak times when flights are overbooked that they can justify an empty "comfort seat" on an otherwise full aircraft. If people want more space, they should cough up the money for business class.

09 Sep 2012

Total posts 139

The fact that "people do it" does not make it right or in any way acceptable.

If someone has paid for anything, goods or services, then no one has any justification for taking it from its rightful owner or lessee except in a case of genuine emergency, and even then  not without just compensation.

The person who had paid for that seat was not a no-show,  and she should not have had the seat for which she had paid taken from her.


I'm surprised the woman who paid for the extra seat didn't put up a fight. She paid for a seat that you took. That's so wrong. Regardless of someone's view on whether this should be allowed or not, if someone purchases a seat then it should not be taken from them.

If you're on a full flight and your screen doesn't work then you have no choice but to miss out on entertainment and take it up with the airline later. You can't take someone's seat.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jul 2012

Total posts 39

We live in a world of if you want something and you are prepared to pay for than its yours. If people feel the need to pay for a comfort seat in eco than whos place is it to say they can not have it or they should buy a business seat. If the plane is full and someone has paid for a comfort seat than so be it. Its theres and noone else should be allowed to seat in it. The staff should know this on their seat list and move anyone who tries to take the seat. You people who complain about things on here are selfish little school children. Suck up life and live with it. Dont like it than go fly with Jetstar. Than have something to actually complain about.

undertheradar Banned
undertheradar Banned

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 654

totally agree with various comments pertaining to paid for the comfort seat beside get the use of the comfort seat for the flight duration..other pax 'issues' are not your's the airlines'..i certainly would have voiced my displeasure

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 738

Where does this clip art come from, anyway?

"What do you do for a living?"

"I'm a model"

"Really? What kind of thing do you do?"

"Oh, I'm best known for my appearance in 'fat guy trying to fit into airline seat' clip art".


14 Jun 2013

Total posts 353

LOL! In aviation terms Hugo he's not fat, he's just wide-bodied!

02 Jan 2013

Total posts 142

This could only ever be an advantage on majority Airbus config (exclu A380). I think I'd pass on the option with a 3 seat config, just be awkward unless you're travelling with a friend then you could half the cost of the middle seat, even that presents unnecessary issues!

20 Oct 2011

Total posts 77

When flying on some low cost options, I'd happily book 3 says for 2 pax, still miles cheaper than a full fare intra Asian ticket. I'm looking at you, Cathay.

undertheradar Banned
undertheradar Banned

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 654

Y/C seats 'width' (any seats width)  will always be constrained by the aircraft width and  airline cost/ you want more space?? pay more!! simple business economics....the Y/C seat will stay basically around the 17-19inch width (as per all airlines) to accommodate the travelling 'masses' ..while  also being able to be cost efficient for an airline..and thus keeping accessable airfares to the 'general' public..... it's just us humans that have 'increased' in girth!!! at least airlines are providing an option to those that want to use it... also if you pay for the xtra will get proof of purchase so no one else can occupy that seat (even if you arent 'in that seat'!! 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Jul 2013

Total posts 17

Easiest solution to the comfort seat is for the airlines to make the seat slightly bigger. We all know that the girth size is increasing. So what if there are less seat in economy?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2012

Total posts 315

Is this a way to build up double status credits and FF points if you are running just that tad short, and dont have enough time to do additional "status" runs? lol

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Mar 2014

Total posts 17

When travelling with a friend or partner in economy, will chose our seats one in the asile and one in the window towards the back of the plane leaving the middle seat free. Unless the plane is completely full this will always be one of the last seats left to be occupied, if someone does come you simply offer them either the asile or the window and any normal person would take up the offer. Most of the time we end up with a 'free' comfort seat anyway!

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