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Etihad Auctions off Empty Seats

Want to get an entire row to yourself on your next international flight? It’s a gamble.

Following in the footsteps of Qantas, the airline that allows travelers to pay extra to get an entire row to themselves, Etihad Airways is now offering a bidding process for passengers to secure empty seats alongside their own. Passengers in economy class can bid for up to three empty seats, and passengers hoping for an upgrade can bid for a seat in the next class up. The airline notifies passengers of a successful bid 24 hours before departure.

Here’s the problem, though: Some flights may already be partially empty, and bidding could be considered an unfair waste of money if someone has paid and comes onboard to find a half-empty plane. Plus, other passengers who didn’t bid, or may not have known about the process, could be angry when trying to move to a more spacious emptier row.

“It may be tough for other passengers to understand that they can’t move to one of those seats, given that it’s empty,” blogger Ben Schlappig notes.

The option to bid for seats comes on the heels of several other cuts Etihad is making in the face of reservation-stunting regulations, like the laptop ban, and low oil prices cutting down oil executive travel. The airline has opened its lounges to economy passengers who want to pay for the posh waiting rooms, and Etihad has also stopped offering free limo services to first and business class passengers (except at the airport in Abu Dhabi).

[Photo: Shutterstock]

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