‘Seats on planes come at a price’

China Daily (Canada) - - TORONTO - ByWANG YING in Shang­hai wang_y­ing@chi­nadaily.com.cn

China’s top air­lines are re­port­ing a surge in in­ter­est among pas­sen­gers want­ing to pay ex­tra to re­serve pre­ferred seats on both do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional flights.

Hainan Air­lines Co Ltd be­came the first ma­jor Chi­nese car­rier to charge ex­tra for seat se­lec­tion on long-haul flights in May 2013, and the op­tion has now be­come so pop­u­lar with pas­sen­gers, the coun­try’s other top air­lines have fol­lowed suit.

Mao Yi, head of public re­la­tions at Shang­hai-based low­bud­get car­rier Spring Air­lines Co, said: “It­maybe anew­phe­nomenon for Chi­nese com­mer­cial air­lines to charge ex­tra for a par­tic­u­lar seat — but it is com­mon in­dus­try prac­tice glob­ally, es­pe­cial­lyon bud­get air­lines.”

SpringAir­li­nesstarted­of­fer­ing paid seats as far back as 2005, and over the years Mao said its most loyal cus­tomers have be­come used to pay­ing ex­tra for a more spa­cious or bet­ter-po­si­tioned seat.

Wang Zhenghua, Spring Air­lines’ founder and chair­man, said: “It is only a mat­ter of­time­be­fore­add-on­prod­ucts such as the seat se­lec­tion ser­vices will ac­count for a sig­nif­i­cant part of air­line rev­enue.”

Yu Nan, an in­dus­trial an­a­lyst from Haitong Se­cu­ri­ties Co, said: “The seats on the first row of the econ­omy cabin, for in­stance, and those lo­cated near the emer­gency exit, are a lot more spa­cious than oth­ers.

“To charge more money to get one of the roomier seats is good busi­ness, and cer­tainly helps bring in more rev­enue. I ex­pect the ser­vice to be­come nor­mal and more gen­er­ally ac­cepted.”

Of­fi­cials atHainan Air­lines, which also of­fers the book­ing op­tion on its do­mes­tic ser­vices, said trav­el­ers can pay to book pre­ferred seats by phone 48 hours be­fore de­par­ture, an­dal­so­some­seats are avail­able to re­serve at coun­ters, Chi­naNa­tional Ra­dio re­ported.

At China South­ern Air­lines Co, mean­while, a spokesman said: “We launched a paid-seat prod­uct on our of­fi­cial web­site in­Aprilth­isyear. Itis­nowavail­able on 12 long-haul flights from Guangzhou to Aus­tralia, Euro­pe­andAmer­ica.”

China South­ern’s costs are be­tween 300 yuan ($46) and 600 yuan for a prime seat on the first row or near an emer­gency exit, for in­stance.

“It is likely we will ex­pand the seat se­lec­tion ser­vice to more routes in the fu­ture, but there are still no plans for our do­mes­tic flights.”

Shang­hai-based China Eastern Air­lines Corp Ltd started charg­ing an av­er­age 500 yuan in Jan­uary to choose seats on 12 of its in­ter­na­tional flights de­part­ing from Shang­hai Pudong In­ter­na­tional Air­port, but it too has no plans to of­fer the ser­vice do­mes­ti­cally.

Bei­jing-based AirChina Ltd also of­fers seat-book­ing ser­vices on some of its flights.

To charge more money to get one of the roomier seats is good busi­ness...”

Wang­Wen in Bei­jing con­trib­uted to the story.

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