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Why Do (mostly) Only US Airlines Reserve Seats?  
User currently offlineSsides From United States of America, joined Feb 2001, 4059 posts, RR: 21
Posted (5 years 9 months 4 weeks 1 day 13 hours ago) and read 7950 times:

After living abroad for quite a while, and then reading this post from PlaneInsomniac, I was wondering:

Why do so few non-US carriers allow booking of seats at the time of purchase?

I know some airlines (e.g., WN) don't have any reserved seating at all, while Royal Jordanian allows pre-reservation of seats, so the rule is clearly not hard and fast.

However, it definitely seems the norm that European & Asian airlines do not allow you to choose your seat until check-in, whereas most US carriers allow you to choose your seat at the time of booking.

I don't have an opinion on it either way -- I often like to reserve my seat when I book, but if I'm traveling last-minute on business, it can be frustrating to have all the "good" (i.e., non-middle) seats already taken by others.

So who has the explanation?


"Lose" is not spelled with two o's!!!!
58 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineUpperDeck79 From Finland, joined Feb 2005, 1139 posts, RR: 2
Reply 1, posted (5 years 9 months 4 weeks 1 day 13 hours ago) and read 7907 times:

At least on AY you can pick your seat from the seat map when you book your ticket.


AY and ANA rock!
User currently offlineGsosbee From United States of America, joined Jan 2005, 825 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (5 years 9 months 4 weeks 1 day 13 hours ago) and read 7853 times:

A couple of excuses/reasons:

* Non-assignment of seats makes it easier to change aircraft on a particular route. Perhaps the non-North American companies do this significantly more than the US companies. (Not sure I would buy this.)

* The cost and availability of the seating software. The seating portion of the purchase routine is separate from the ticketing routine. (Not onboard with this excuse as the US carriers have perfected this.)

* My experience on European and Asian carriers is the more you pay the better seat you get. They fill the middle and back of the cabin seats with the low payers. Until the flight is opened on the day of the flight they want the ability to reward the higher ticket payers. (This is the most plausible explanation.)


User currently offlineAirbazar From United States of America, joined Sep 2003, 8231 posts, RR: 10
Reply 3, posted (5 years 9 months 4 weeks 1 day 12 hours ago) and read 7786 times:



Quoting Gsosbee (Reply 2):
My experience on European and Asian carriers is the more you pay the better seat you get. They fill the middle and back of the cabin seats with the low payers. Until the flight is opened on the day of the flight they want the ability to reward the higher ticket payers. (This is the most plausible explanation.)

NW does that too by blocking the "better" Y seats to their most valuable customers. For example my experience with NW is this: if you buy a TATL ticket on NW and you're not one of their premium passengers, you're limited to back of the bus or middle seats only. But you can still pick one of those  Smile


User currently offlineLTBEWR From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 13040 posts, RR: 12
Reply 4, posted (5 years 9 months 4 weeks 1 day 12 hours ago) and read 7774 times:

I think it goes back to the early days of flying when passanger loads had to be more balanced on the smaller a/c used in that era, then it just continued as an expected policy.

User currently onlineTonyBurr From United States of America, joined Mar 2001, 1023 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (5 years 9 months 4 weeks 1 day 11 hours ago) and read 7685 times:

I think they also do it to get people to come to the airport and check in earlier so they can get good seats, get through security, and the flight is more likely to depart on time. The earlier people check in, the better prepared they are to depart.

User currently offlineCubsrule From United States of America, joined May 2004, 22731 posts, RR: 20
Reply 6, posted (5 years 9 months 4 weeks 1 day 8 hours ago) and read 7508 times:



Quoting Airbazar (Reply 3):
NW does that too by blocking the "better" Y seats to their most valuable customers. For example my experience with NW is this: if you buy a TATL ticket on NW and you're not one of their premium passengers, you're limited to back of the bus or middle seats only. But you can still pick one of those

 checkmark As an elite, I never had trouble getting a 'desirable' seat even with very little advance purchase.

Quoting TonyBurr (Reply 5):
I think they also do it to get people to come to the airport and check in earlier so they can get good seats, get through security, and the flight is more likely to depart on time. The earlier people check in, the better prepared they are to depart.

Most carriers have seemingly adjusted their checkin times (and the times at which folks need to be present at the gate) so that people arrive early enough to get the flight out on time.

Quoting Ssides (Thread starter):
However, it definitely seems the norm that European & Asian airlines do not allow you to choose your seat until check-in, whereas most US carriers allow you to choose your seat at the time of booking.

Does it have something to do with the prevalence of online checkin in the States (which relates to the quantity of domestic travel we have here as compared to carriers like EK or SQ which are 100% international)? If seat selection isn't a way to get folks to the airport, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of reason to hold seats until arrival at the airport-- forcing folks to go online right at 24 hours before the flight seems foolish.



I can't decide whether I miss the tulip or the bowling shoe more
User currently offlineFalstaff From United States of America, joined Jun 2006, 6075 posts, RR: 29
Reply 7, posted (5 years 9 months 4 weeks 1 day 7 hours ago) and read 7457 times:
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Quoting Airbazar (Reply 3):
For example my experience with NW is this: if you buy a TATL ticket on NW and you're not one of their premium passengers, you're limited to back of the bus or middle seats only. But you can still pick one of those

I have flown TATL on NW two round trip thsi year. I have no status with NW at all and I had seats very close to the front (as far as Y goes).



My mug slaketh over on Falstaff N503
User currently offlineSJC4Me From United States of America, joined Jul 2006, 373 posts, RR: 1
Reply 8, posted (5 years 9 months 4 weeks 1 day 7 hours ago) and read 7432 times:

It's because we Americans are a whiney bunch. We want our window seats.  Smile

Plus if one airline does it, the rest have to just to keep pace so they don't lose business.



Unable.
User currently offlineCubsrule From United States of America, joined May 2004, 22731 posts, RR: 20
Reply 9, posted (5 years 9 months 4 weeks 1 day 7 hours ago) and read 7416 times:



Quoting SJC4Me (Reply 8):
Plus if one airline does it, the rest have to just to keep pace so they don't lose business.

WN?



I can't decide whether I miss the tulip or the bowling shoe more
User currently offlineFlyASAGuy2005 From United States of America, joined Sep 2007, 7004 posts, RR: 11
Reply 10, posted (5 years 9 months 4 weeks 1 day 7 hours ago) and read 7391 times:



Quoting Cubsrule (Reply 9):
WN?

Good point. But that's one against many others that do. As you already can see. The pack usually doesn't care what WN is doing (i.e. bag fees).



What gets measured gets done.
User currently offlinePlanesarecool From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2001, 4119 posts, RR: 11
Reply 11, posted (5 years 9 months 4 weeks 1 day 7 hours ago) and read 7387 times:

I tried booking a flight from Heathrow to Chicago last year with UA, but was put off by the fact that the only seats remaining were groups of one or two in the middle of the 5 centre seats on the 777, despite being 2-3 months in advance. So in that situation, they lost my business solely because of their seating policy.

User currently offlineCubsrule From United States of America, joined May 2004, 22731 posts, RR: 20
Reply 12, posted (5 years 9 months 4 weeks 1 day 7 hours ago) and read 7375 times:



Quoting FlyASAGuy2005 (Reply 10):
But that's one against many others that do. As you already can see. The pack usually doesn't care what WN is doing (i.e. bag fees).

Fair point. Other carriers have a wide variety of policies, though, ranging from no seat assignment unless you pay more (FL) to something pretty close to a free for all (DL).



I can't decide whether I miss the tulip or the bowling shoe more
User currently offlineGsosbee From United States of America, joined Jan 2005, 825 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (5 years 9 months 4 weeks 1 day 7 hours ago) and read 7372 times:



Quoting Airbazar (Reply 3):
NW does that too by blocking the "better" Y seats to their most valuable customers. For example my experience with NW is this: if you buy a TATL ticket on NW and you're not one of their premium passengers, you're limited to back of the bus or middle seats only. But you can still pick one of those



Quoting Cubsrule (Reply 6):
As an elite, I never had trouble getting a 'desirable' seat even with very little advance purchase.

That isn't the question. The question is why can no one select any seat in advance on the European and Asian airlines.


User currently offlineWorldTraveler From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 14, posted (5 years 9 months 4 weeks 1 day 7 hours ago) and read 7372 times:

advance seat selection is a customer amenity - and it exists in other forms of common carriage (busses, trains). The US airlines have invested enormous amounts of money developing CRS/GDSs... advance seat selection is one of those amenities (a reminder for those of you who argue about what the US airlines do not offer). however, the value of that amenity will be unlocked and customers will be asked to pay for the opportunity to book "decent" seats in advance.

another factor behind seat selection for US airlines is that the US airlines have a higher percentage of connecting passengers on their network. while it is possible to select seat assignments for multiple segments on the day of departure, advance seat selection is a sales tool to allow passengers go get where they want on the plane.

advance seat selection existed long before online checkin and before regional jets or before there were many regional partners. US airline passengers previously could obtain their boarding passes in advance but security changes require that boarding passes are issued generally within a day of departure.


User currently offlineCubsrule From United States of America, joined May 2004, 22731 posts, RR: 20
Reply 15, posted (5 years 9 months 4 weeks 1 day 7 hours ago) and read 7361 times:



Quoting Gsosbee (Reply 13):
That isn't the question. The question is why can no one select any seat in advance on the European and Asian airlines.

Right, and NW demonstrates that the answer isn't that not assigning seats is a way to ensure that high-revenue or elite passengers get good seats.



I can't decide whether I miss the tulip or the bowling shoe more
User currently offlineFalstaff From United States of America, joined Jun 2006, 6075 posts, RR: 29
Reply 16, posted (5 years 9 months 4 weeks 1 day 7 hours ago) and read 7349 times:
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Quoting Planesarecool (Reply 11):
I tried booking a flight from Heathrow to Chicago last year with UA, but was put off by the fact that the only seats remaining were groups of one or two in the middle of the 5 centre seats on the 777, despite being 2-3 months in advance. So in that situation, they lost my business solely because of their seating policy

I have ran into that problem on NW before on domestic and TATL flights. I picked my seat anyway and then when the time came to check in online I found that there were many more seats I could chose from. I always was able to get a window or aisle even though when I first bought the ticket I was stuck in the middle.



My mug slaketh over on Falstaff N503
User currently offlineJetdeltamsy From United States of America, joined Nov 2000, 2987 posts, RR: 8
Reply 17, posted (5 years 9 months 4 weeks 1 day 5 hours ago) and read 6879 times:



Quoting Ssides (Thread starter):
Why do so few non-US carriers allow booking of seats at the time of purchase?

US airlines do it because it was a marketing move in about 1981 that was started by American Airlines. It gives the customer more sense of control over his or her travel plans. It assures families get seated together, etc....

It's fairly expensive for airlines to offer this service, and it also creates operational challenges.

Airlines in the US do it because AA started it years ago and they don't want to lose their competitive edge over other carriers. Now I realize Southwest is the largest US carrier in terms of traffic and they do not issue PRS, Some of their customers have wailed for years for them to offer PRS. But they have proven that there are at least enough people out there willing to flying without PRS to keep them profitable.

If AA and all the rest felt they could drop the systems, they would have done so yesterday.



Tired of airline bankruptcies....EA/PA/TW and finally DL.
User currently offlineHaggis79 From Germany, joined Jun 2006, 1096 posts, RR: 1
Reply 18, posted (5 years 9 months 4 weeks 1 day 4 hours ago) and read 6732 times:

well, I think the premise of this thread is not exactly correct...

on most European airlines you absolutely can pre-reserve seats when flying longhaul... just not on short- and medium haul flights - and even that option is gaining traction.

I think the reason why it isn't possible for short and medium haul is either because airlines want to be able to do a last minute equipment substitution or because of the computer systems.... probably the former, I think.



300 310 319/20/21 332/3 343 AT4/7 143 B19 732/3/4/5/G/8/9 742/4 752/3 763/4 77E/W CR2/7/9 D95 E45/70 F50 F70 100 M11 M90
User currently offlineCubsrule From United States of America, joined May 2004, 22731 posts, RR: 20
Reply 19, posted (5 years 9 months 4 weeks 1 day 4 hours ago) and read 6684 times:



Quoting Haggis79 (Reply 18):
I think the reason why it isn't possible for short and medium haul is either because airlines want to be able to do a last minute equipment substitution or because of the computer systems.... probably the former, I think.

Airlines in the States routinely substitute equipment too... I think it's mainly a competitive difference.



I can't decide whether I miss the tulip or the bowling shoe more
User currently offlineMCIGuy From United States of America, joined Mar 2006, 1936 posts, RR: 0
Reply 20, posted (5 years 9 months 4 weeks 1 day 4 hours ago) and read 6666 times:

I got a window MCI>DEN>PHX and back, all the way. Gotta love the system that allows that!  Silly


Airliners.net Moderator Team
User currently offlineOdysseus9001 From United States of America, joined Oct 2008, 134 posts, RR: 0
Reply 21, posted (5 years 9 months 4 weeks 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 6395 times:



Quoting LTBEWR (Reply 4):
NW does that too by blocking the "better" Y seats to their most valuable customers. For example my experience with NW is this: if you buy a TATL ticket on NW and you're not one of their premium passengers, you're limited to back of the bus or middle seats only. But you can still pick one of those

Which is why I never accumulate enough miles on NW to become an elite flyer with them. Blocking off a section for elite flyers like United, Delta, and others is one thing, forcing everyone else into the middle seats or next to the toilet entrance is not nice, especially for a $1,000 r/t for a distance for which most other routes of similar distance is much, much less than that. What is especially irritating is the many empty aisle and window seats you see as you board.

Yes, I know I can upgrade, but 1) I'm angry at the time I'm asked, 2) upgrading costs money out of my pocket, and 3) why should I do that on a NW Y class ticket if I can fly another airline I am an elite flyer (or even not) on and fly in better seats I can choose in advance?

As a result, I bend over backwards to avoid flying them, including driving up to two hours from somewhere else, if need be. I'll never avoid them if it costs my organization more money, but avoiding them often saves my organization and me both money. Nothing against NW in general, but as a customer, this aspect of their business model is has never been something I've liked.

I just hope the Delta model prevails over the NW model during the merger, but I'm not optimistic.

In general, I do prefer the U.S. method of reserving seats in advance, though I admit I've never gotten a really bad seat doing a lot of flying in Europe using the European seating method.

John


User currently offlineCubsrule From United States of America, joined May 2004, 22731 posts, RR: 20
Reply 22, posted (5 years 9 months 4 weeks 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 6344 times:



Quoting Odysseus9001 (Reply 21):
Which is why I never accumulate enough miles on NW to become an elite flyer with them. Blocking off a section for elite flyers like United, Delta, and others is one thing, forcing everyone else into the middle seats or next to the toilet entrance is not nice, especially for a $1,000 r/t for a distance for which most other routes of similar distance is much, much less than that. What is especially irritating is the many empty aisle and window seats you see as you board.

Those empty seats are available to everyone at checkin. All it takes is changing one's seat then.



I can't decide whether I miss the tulip or the bowling shoe more
User currently offlineLufthansa747 From Philippines, joined May 1999, 3201 posts, RR: 43
Reply 23, posted (5 years 9 months 4 weeks 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 6288 times:

Euro/Asian airlines not allowing seat selection? Not exactly correct.

It mostly applies to intra-Europe, because of flexible cabins based on demand. There might be a Monday morning FRA-BRU with 18 rows of business and a Saturday evening one with 3 rows.

Much better use of resources than having a 20F/150Y aircraft where 170 passengers showing up pay for Y and 20 elites get the upgrades.

I think the way U.S. airlines do seat selection is completely ridiculous. There should be a decent number of seats available for check-in only, to accommodate last minute full Y etc. Sure, offer it on all flighs, but block 40% including the best seats for elites/check-in only.



Air Asia Super Elite, Cebu Pacific Titanium
User currently offlineSL1200MK2 From United States of America, joined Sep 2008, 32 posts, RR: 0
Reply 24, posted (5 years 9 months 4 weeks 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 6264 times:

Hello all!

As Haggis79 said...

"on most European airlines you absolutely can pre-reserve seats when flying longhaul... just not on short- and medium haul flights - and even that option is gaining traction."

This is a good point as I have noticed the same thing. I am not sure what system is used now but I remember that on British Airways you could not reserve seats at all except on flights to the USA due to the fact that it would have been uncompetitive to give their possible customers that ability on all the US based carriers from the UK to the US and not on BA. I just don't know if this existed on other airlines or routes in competitive situations with airlines that did offer seat selection.

It seems to me that for airline employees it would be easier to not allow pre-selection as it has the potential to just cause more upset and confusion at the airport.


25 Cubsrule : ...which is almost exactly what NW does.
26 Xtoler : Why don't US (other than WN) have open seating? Same reason, when I get tickets to a rock concert, we may have too much fun.
27 Lufthansa747 : Ok, and I think that's fair for everybody. Early bookers get their choice, rest at check-in. What I highly disagree with is BA extending their policy
28 CastropRauxel : I agree completely - and as mentioned, nowadays it is possible not only on long-haul, but most european and asian airlines will reserve seats an shor
29 Lufthansa747 : To have 100% of seats available for advance selection on routes like FRA-DUS.
30 Cubsrule : Agreed. The only problem is if someone buys an expensive (i.e. full-fare Y) ticket very shortly before departure (after most have checked in), but I
31 Lufthansa747 : Such things can be dealt with outside North America. Someone with proper status on SQ for example gets the coveted 1B on SQ 744. The previous occupan
32 Odysseus9001 : I hope you are right now, but when I was checking in at the airport for earlier this year for a NW flight, I was given a middle seat, and not given t
33 Cubsrule : You are supposed to be able to change into Premium seats (the ones marked with a P on the online seat map) at checkin if they're empty regardless of
34 Flyabunch : Last year I booked a four leg flight LAX-BKK-DAK and DAK-BKK-LAX on TG and they let me select my seats just the same as in the US. I booked about 40 d
35 Mysterzip : Some airlines do it to have flexibility just in case something unexpected happens - an error in reservations or just go give a good seat to the first
36 Carpethead : Well, the Japanese carriers have pre-select seating on their website but it's no good for anyone who can't read Japanese.
37 Cschleic : I believe EVA Air lets you select seats 100 days prior to the flight; at least they did last time I flew them. But when I went online on the 100th day
38 SSTsomeday : I just flew a Delta commuter between Sun Valley and Salt Lake today. At check in kiosk - I changed to seat 2A from an exit seat, so I could have a bet
39 CastropRauxel : Well, that we both know would be technically impossible, as the configuration changes easily depending on the booking status. but still, and I say th
40 APYu : British Airways are trying to get 80% of their passengers to use online check in as it helps them meet significant cost savings targets by needing le
41 Airbazar : But were they isle seats or middles seats? And how full was the flight? You certainly can on medium/long haul flights. I've done it on BA and LH. wha
42 Someone83 : For European Airlines it has alot to do with their flexible business class, meaning people in Y can risk being moved if/when the C-class is expanded
43 SSTsomeday : I know this has been discussed, but I really find those convertible business/coach seats to be sub par. 'Kind of business-"lite." At least it's for pr
44 Sq2ams : I think it's the other way around. WN doesn't care what the pack is doing, especially since WN is the only one to consistently make money compared to
45 AirNovaBAe146 : I recently flew to SN from KIG - BRU - THF. When I made my reservation, I was unable to pre-select a seat. I was quite annoyed that I was unable to ch
46 Someone83 : Yes, it's on intra-European flights. What you pay for is not the seat, but the flexibility and service (both on-board and at the airport). However ma
47 Panova98 : An amusing matter to some of us, this seat selection/pre-assigned seat business. Back in an earlier life, before computers, I recall nearly every seat
48 Viscount724 : I prefer the European-type of business class especially with most carriers (BA and KL the notable exceptions) now leaving the middle seat empty so yo
49 Brilondon : Yeah right. You don't book just because of the seat selection? There has got to be more to it then just that. You should upgrade to full fare and not
50 SSTsomeday : I absolutely concur. If a passenger is somewhat savvy and books far enough in advance to manage his seat selection and see to his preference, yet the
51 Cubsrule : I think it's inexcusable on short haul flights for those airlines that connect passengers from long haul to short haul flights, too. While I understa
52 HB88 : er... but for some European and Asian carriers you can. British Airways offer seat selection when checking in online. Singapore Airlines offer seat a
53 Planesarecool : Or, I can fly another airline, where I don't have to pay 'full' fare and can still get the seats I want, like I did (and probably got a better servic
54 Brilondon : In response to the original question, I wonder why European airlines don't allow you to select your seats when you purchase your tickets since you can
55 AirNovaBAe146 : Thanks for your words of support. In all honesty - I'm not too picky when it comes to seat selection. Yes - I try to get a window and usually do so b
56 SSTsomeday : I don't consider this "advance" seat selection as it is only 24 hours out. Advance seat selection is several months out, and I fully understand if so
57 CastropRauxel : that's mostly what's being done these days. plus don't forget that most major airlines give the option of internet check in nowadays, so even if not
58 Cubsrule : The problem is for those of us who travel with alliance partners and thus do not check in with the operating carrier... but I suppose that's more a c
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