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App Allows Passengers to Swap and Sell Plane Seats

App Allows Passengers to Swap and Sell Plane Seats
Lauren Englisbe

Say goodbye to being stuck in the middle on a long flight. The new Seateroo app lets you swap seats with other passengers in real time.

There’s a lot that can complicate airplane travels: crying babies across the aisle, passengers who recline their chairs practically into your lap, the dreaded middle seat. But what if there were an app that could offer more control over these variables?

Enter Seateroo, set to launch this January in the U.S. The free app provides a digital marketplace where passengers can pay to change seats with other flyers. The minimum price to do a swap is $5, with Seateroo taking 15 percent of the cut as commission.

Seats can be listed on the app up to five days before flying (except for Southwest flights, as passengers do not know their seat location until they board). Users looking for an upgrade can use the interface to browse availability and make offers. Swaps can be completed after both passengers board the plane using their own tickets, according to the Seateroo FAQ page.

In a blog post on their site, Seateroo reported that 55 percent of respondents said they were “moderately to extremely likely” to pay another passenger for their seat. Additionally, those participating said they would be willing to pay up to $24 to change seats on shorter flights, and up to $34 for longer trips.

Seateroo is based out of Southern California, and per their website, was born out of “a crowded, coast-to-coast flight in 2014.” The company is not affiliated with any airline. As a result, Seateroo cautions customers that swaps are at the discression of flight attendants, especially when changing seat classes or trying to move to the exit row.

[Photo: Shutterstock]

View Comments (10)

10 Comments

  1. chx1975

    December 22, 2015 at 8:48 am

    OK so I use this app, swap seats and then complain to seateroo the seat swap didn’t happen. It’s my word against the other passenger. How on earth they think they will be able to settle disputes?

  2. joecool1885

    December 22, 2015 at 9:30 am

    Agreed with chx. I like the concept, but there is way too much risk involved here.
    I don’t know what “discression” is, either, but it doesn’t sound good!

  3. ijgordon

    December 22, 2015 at 9:53 am

    I suppose you’d also complain to Uber that your driver never picked you up, and that he just drove an empty car or a random stranger to your home.
    I mean, seriously? How about the seller provides photographic evidence that s/he sat in the swapee’s seat?

  4. brocklee9000

    December 22, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    Yeah I can see this going south quickly. For example, someone on a lie-flat JFK-LAX. Someone claims to be in 4A and for “only $150 I’ll swap with you.” Then you walk up to 4A and awkwardly stand there as they settle in and look at you like you’re crazy. All the while, the mischievous individual gets away with your $150. Surely there are some other safeguards in place, but I can only imagine this will lead to all sorts of issues. There are already myriad threads about seat swapping etiquette, seat poachers, stolen upgrades, etc. While I don’t know of any policy expressly forbidding seat swapping (I have given my F upgrade to parents in the past, for example), I can see FAs quelling seat swapping for various reasons (moving stowed bags, late departures, etc).

  5. AAJetMan

    December 22, 2015 at 4:19 pm

    LOVE The concept. I’ve downgraded on many flights, although that was back in the day when I’d get an entire row in Y rather than fly in a packed First. (for short flights, i.e less than 4 hours)

  6. bradpursel

    December 22, 2015 at 9:48 pm

    “those participating said they would be willing to pay up to $24 to change seats on shorter flights, and up to $34 for longer trips.”

    Correction: those prices were the “average” of the responses. A significant percentage of respondents were willing to pay $50 or more. So depending upon the situation, some were willing to pay much more than the average.

  7. bradpursel

    December 22, 2015 at 10:02 pm

    chx1975/joecool1885/brocklee9000 Electronic payments are held until the day after the flight to prevent a user from trying to get paid for a swap and not giving up a seat. There’s a prescribed time window to contact Seateroo regarding any problems with the swap and receive a refund.

    People may try to be creeps, but Seateroo has tried to build in safeguards to limit the ability for such behavior to be rewarded.

  8. Larry Siegel

    December 23, 2015 at 1:33 am

    As long as the airline isn’t a party to the Seataroo agreement, this won’t work. FAs are supposed to enforce the seat assignments on the tix, not the seats that pax say they’ve acquired through trade. With parents it works because there is no one to contest the seating.

    Uber: yes I’ve complained that the driver never picked me up, but only when it was true. They GPS the whole ride and they can see that my driver didn’t take me to my destination or, for that matter, anywhere and that a different driver did.

  9. SportDiver

    December 23, 2015 at 8:17 am

    O.K., so let’s start a forum on FT for the Seataroo app, and see how well it works, once it is rolled out in 2016.

  10. bradpursel

    December 23, 2015 at 8:44 pm

    Larry Siegel. You wrote: “As long as the airline isn’t a party to the Seataroo agreement, this won’t work. FAs are supposed to enforce the seat assignments on the tix, not the seats that pax say they’ve acquired through trade. With parents it works because there is no one to contest the seating.”

    You are referring to a scenario where a passenger would agree to swap a seat and then back-out of the swap. The electronic payment is held until after the flight, so a seller would not gain anything from such a trick. A buyer who backs out of a swap would also have nothing to gain. User ratings on the app, as well as reasons communicated for any cancelled transaction, would result in “bad” users either not finding swap partners or having their accounts terminated.

    Hopefully, the small chance of someone backing out would not prohibit someone from using the app.
    Much like Uber and Airbnb, there is always the potential for a user with whom you are transacting with being a jerk. However, compared to the risks one might run into hitching a ride with/driving a stranger (Uber) or staying with/housing a stranger (Airbnb), I would suggest that swapping an airline seat is no big deal. People already swap seats on airlines, all that Seateroo is doing is making the process more efficient.

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