EXCLUSIVE | Qantas will begin charging for extra legroom economy seats on all domestic flights from today, with travellers paying between $20 and $60 to book the emergency exit row on its Boeing 737 and Airbus A330 jets.
The airline began selling emergency exit row seats on east-west routes in 2014, but is now extending the scheme to the rest of its Australian network.
The biggest losers under the arrangement will be Qantas Frequent Flyer Gold and Platinum members, who previously enjoyed free seat selection in the exit rows on most domestic flights but will now have to pay the same fee as low-status and no-status flyers.
The scheme will also be extended to trans-Tasman flights, where exit row seats are currently available for free at the airport on the day of departure.
However, the very front rows of the economy cabin – which also boast extra legroom, at row four on Boeing 737s and rows 23 and 24 on Airbus A330s – will continue to be reserved at no cost for Platinum One and Chairman’s Lounge members and other high-value frequent flyers, and not offered to other travellers under the ‘extra legroom’ banner.
Platinum One and Chairman’s Lounge members will also be able to pre-select emergency exit row seating at no charge.
Qantas says that expanding the scheme to cover all domestic flights "facilitates a fairer seat selection process, with the allocation of seats which have additional legroom space better reflecting the fee paid."
Qantas' contentious move comes six weeks after Virgin Australia launched its Economy X seating, although Virgin's proposition created several extra legroom rows and also bundles priority security screening, priority boarding and dedicated overhead locker space at similar price points to booking Qantas' exit rows.
It's understood that Qantas has no plans to launch a similar and competing 'Economy Plus' package.
Qantas' emergency exit row seat selection fees
- Domestic Boeing 737 and Airbus A330 flights: $20 - $60, depending on the length of the flight
- International short-haul flights (trans-Tasman, Port Moresby, Noumea): $25
- International medium-haul flights (Australia to Asia and Dubai, Perth-Auckland, Los Angeles to New York, Dubai to London): $90
- International long-haul flights (Australia to London, Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York, Dallas, Santiago and Johannesburg): $180