Wednesday, February 10, 2016

New way to get a better airline seat

The email was intriguing: Air Travelers Want Expanded Options for Obtaining a Preferred Seat. Great, I thought, but what are they proposing?

Turns out to be the free market at work.

Seateroo, an air travel app that was just launched in January, enables passengers to buy a better seat than the one they reserved when they booked their ticket and enables passengers to offer to exchange their better seats for less desirable seats. In so doing, the app would facilitate a “secondary market” for preferred seats.

“The ability to select a preferred airline seat is not possible once such seats are sold out,” the company said in its news release. “As a result, while traveling on a full flight, many people are stuck in middle seats, rear seats, or other less desirable seat locations.”

I have been there, as have most of us at one time or another.

To quantify the demand for such a service, the company conducted a survey of recent, frequent air travelers to find out how many would be willing to pay to get a better seat than the one they reserved when they booked their ticket.

In that survey, air travelers were asked about their willingness to pay to swap for a better airline seat under a number of circumstances during flights of varying lengths. For long flights of 3.5 hours or longer:
  • 39 percent were willing to pay to swap from a middle seat to an aisle seat.
  • 31 percent were willing to pay to swap from a middle seat to a window seat.
  • 18 percent were willing to pay to swap from a rear row seat to a front row seat.
  • 34 percent were willing to pay to swap for a seat away from an annoying passenger.
  • 44 percent were willing to pay to swap from an economy seat to a premium seat.
  • 44 percent were willing to pay to swap for a seat near a spouse, friend, or colleague.
Using the Seateroo app, passengers who want a better seat places a bid on seats offered by other passengers who are willing to sell their seat and take one that is less preferential. Passengers then choose among market orders and negotiate price. Electronic payments are processed between buyers and sellers who, after boarding the flight using their issued boarding passes, will swap seats.

Even those flying Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) can get in on the action by paying to trade for a higher boarding group.

While the survey assessed the attitudes of 401 U.S. residents between the ages of 18 and 65 who were mobile device users and had traveled at least three times in the previous six months, my instinct was that there would be an imbalance between the buyers and sellers.

According to the survey, the likelihood of passengers accepting payment to swap for a less desirable seat was higher on shorter flights than on longer flights. On flights of 3.5 hours or more, 20 percent indicated that they were moderately to extremely likely to be willing to swap for a less desirable seat in return for being paid while 10 percent indicated that they were highly to extremely likely make such a swap.

On medium-duration flights of two to three hours, 36 percent indicated that they were moderately to extremely likely to be willing to swap for a less desirable seat in return for being paid while 15 percent indicated that they were highly to extremely likely make such a swap.

On a short flight of between 0.5 and 1.5 hours, 45 percent indicated that they were moderately to extremely likely to be willing to swap for a less desirable seat in return for being paid while 29 percent indicated that they were highly to extremely likely make such a swap.

As a Boomer who has been flying literally since before I can remember, I have paid my dues in terms of enduring cramped conditions to save a few bucks. Today, I am more than willing to pay more for additional comfort and it would take a healthy incentive to get me to give that up – more, I would expect, than most people would be willing to pay. But the app’s founder pointed out that there are others who feel differently.

“We also gathered price indications regarding the amount a passenger would require to be paid to swap from a better seat to a less preferred seat under a number of scenarios,” Brad Pursel, founder and president of Seateroo, told TheTravelPro in an email. “Although the average was higher for the ‘sell’ price than the ‘buy’ price, there were also many passengers willing to sell for prices equal to or lower than the buy prices.”

Moreover Pursel believes that, because the product is new, the survey results understate the willingness to swap, and that willingness to swap will become greater as the product becomes more established.

More information is available at http://seateroo.com/.

Visit my main page at TheTravelPro.us for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.



Screenshots provided by Seateroo
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