We all know the drill. Book a flight with a budget airline, get to the airport, check in and go through security. Then begins a battle through queues and the stressful rush to secure a decent seat on the plane.
Hoards of people crowding round the gates in an unorganised mass have become a familiar sight in airports. But is this all about to end? EasyJet has recently announced that from November, all passengers will be automatically allocated a seat upon booking. Extra charges will only be incurred if you wish to book a particular seat and groups will be placed together wherever possible.
Of course, as is the tradition with budget airlines, there is the opportunity for them to make a bit of extra money. Those wishing to bag a front row or exit row seat with extra leg room will have to cough up £12. Front row seats will set you back an extra £8, meaning you could exit the aircraft more quickly, and any other chosen seat will cost £3.
The trial run this summer saw positive feedback. It apparently cut delays without increasing the overall cost to customers and was popular enough for it to be rolled out across its entire flight network. This will bring EasyJet into line with other budget airlines which charge for allocated seating. However, competitor Ryanair saw many flights take off earlier this year with emergency exit seats empty as no one was willing to pay the extra charge. Will it end the desperate rush or is it just designed for the airline to further line their pockets.
One of the most stressful aspects of flying is the undignified scrum to get to the plane first so you can have the pick of the best seats. Especially for families concerned they may be separated and seated among strangers, or the unlucky ones among us who draw the short straw and have to share our seat with the guy big enough to fill three. It’s just frustrating they didn’t realise this sooner.
Hopefully, this may be the start of more improvements from no-frills airlines. Top of everyone’s list must be an overhaul of the charges for baggage? Boarding the plane in such a rush requires so much more skill when wielding hand luggage bursting at the seams in order to avoid crippling hold luggage costs. Although this may be a way off yet, at least budget airlines seem to be taking a step in the right direction to improve the welfare of their passengers.
At least, for now, it will save us all the effort of sharpening our elbows and gearing up for the seat scramble. Finally, we can start our holiday as soon as we get to the airport. There should be time to relax while shopping or grabbing a bite to eat, rather than worrying incessantly and eyeing up the departures board, ready to bolt as soon as the gate number is announced.