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In a move to attract business travellers that has seen several low fare carriers allow passengers to pre-book seats, Irish flag carrier, Aer Lingus, has followed suit and permitted travellers to choose where they sit ” for a fee.
Aer Lingus has re-invented itself as a low cost operator and in tandem with many of its competitors, now charges for seating options that were hitherto free. From the end of May, passengers can pre-book seating in the first five rows for ”10 (”6.80), an exit row seat for ”15 and all remaining options for ”3.
Alternatively, passengers can continue to select their seat at check-in or when using the self-service facility FastPass for no further charge. From tomorrow (4 April), they can also pre-select seats online for what the carrier terms an ”introductory charge” of ”3 for short-haul flights to and from the UK and Europe only.
And from next week travel insurance will be included in the booking flow process, as well as hiring a car at the same time.
”Against a background of short haul fares falling by almost 4% in 2006, today”s announcement demonstrates our continued focus on enhancement and placing the customer in charge of their travel experience. We recognise the time sensitivity of the business traveller in particular,” said Aer Lingus commercial director, Enda Corneille.
Aer Lingus joins easyJet with its ”speedy boarding” charge in a move that appears to herald a philosophical shift in how low fare carriers view guaranteed seating. At the recent ITM Conference in Edinburgh, easyJet boss, Stelios Haji-Ioannou was asked why his airline charged for seat allocation.
The Luton carrier founder freely commented that the reason he limited seating of choice was so that passengers were at the gate for on-time departure, against the backdrop of extremely tight turn-arounds ” often of just 25mins.
However, he added that the introduction of the speedy boarding facility was a recognition of the business traveller”s needs, as echoed by Aer Lingus” decision to follow like-wise. Several other charter carriers also charge for what they perceive as premium sections of the aircraft such as exit rows and bulkheads.