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Seat Assignments Second-Best Revenue Generator for Airlines

Seat Assignments Second-Best Revenue Generator for Airlines

Ancillary revenue from seat assignments is now the second-biggest generator of income for many major airlines, according to a new study sponsored by global travel tech provider CarTrawler. For some, this can be a a billion-dollar result, and for every other airline it’s a multi-million-dollar business.

In Transformation 2021: Seat Assignment Fees Firmly on Airline Radars, it was found that more than half of leading airlines offer basic economy style fares which require payment of a fee to check a bag and very often for pre-assigned seating.

In the United States, Southwest Airlines is unique among leading airlines for not offering seat assignments, instead allowing passengers to choose seats as they board aircraft. Alaska Airlines breaks from US network airline practice by offering a limited number of pre-assigned seats to its saver fare (basic economy) travellers.

Using 2017 figures, the report calculates that Ryanair makes $2.34 (€1.91) per passenger from seat assignments, for a total of $325.5 million (€266.97 million), by far the most of any low-cost airline. Ryanair accommodates families by providing no-charge seat assignments for children when the adult pays a modest €4 to €6 fee.

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Fionn Davenport is the editor-in-chief of the ITTN group, including ITTN and ITTN Ireland. He's one of Ireland's best-known travel journalists and writers, with nearly 30 years' experience writing guidebooks for Lonely Planet and others.

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