British Airways has changed their policy for allocating seats – and I like it.
If you pay full fare, are Business or First class, or have gold or silver membership – then you can reserve your seat at the time of booking your ticket.
If you have kids with you then you can reserve your seats 3 days before flight.
Else, if, like most others, you have paid a discounted economy fare, then you can only reserve a seat when you check in, which you can do online from 24 prior to departure.
The clever thing about this is that BA is rewarding their most valuable customers. If I pay full fare then it is fair that I get a better seat choice than someone that pays a third of what I paid. Right now the organized, those who arrive early at the airport (certainly never me) and the persuasive get the best seats.
BA is also ensuring a higher uptake of online check-in, which reduces costs and clutter at the airport, makes seat assignment and calculating how full to make the plane that much easier, and makes the traveller commit to their travel well ahead of departure.
This is a really good way to get a better price for the better seats – after all if everybody wants an exit row seat, then you may as well charge more for it.
Another way to do this could be to have a standard ‘exit row premium’ that is charged to customers that request and get those seats. If the airline is really good then they can auction off ‘exit row’ and ‘seats next to empty seats’ for long-haul flights – could be a nice little earner.