Air France and KLM have extended their Advance Seat Reservation policy, initially applied in Economy Class, to Business Class on long-haul flights, a decision that has generated negative reactions among passengers.
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Advance Seat Reservation Policy Details
Here’s what you need to know about Air France and KLM’s Advance Seat Reservation policy for Business Class passengers:
- The policy is applicable to long-haul Business Standard tickets purchased for travel from April 13.
- Seat selection fees range from €70 to €90 per flight, depending on the route.
- Flying Blue Silver, Gold, and Platinum members, Business Flex passengers, and corporate customers (excluding bluebiz) are exempt from these fees.
- All Business Class passengers can still select their seats for free during the check-in window, which opens 30 hours before departure.
- The fee will not initially apply to flights to or from North America due to the airlines’ transatlantic joint venture with Delta and Virgin Atlantic.
The Unbundling Trend in Business Class
Airlines have increasingly started offering “light” fares in Business Class that exclude certain premium services, such as checked luggage, lounge access, seat assignment, and airport priority services. While these fares may be cheaper, they may not provide the full experience passengers expect when booking a Business Class ticket.
The introduction of seat reservation fees by Air France and KLM is another example of this unbundling trend. Many passengers feel that at the premium price of a Business Class ticket, seat selection should be included at the time of booking. The decision to charge for this service on a full-service carrier is seen as a move away from the traditional premium experience.
Following in the Footsteps of Other Airlines
Air France-KLM aren’t the first carriers to hit up well-heeled Business Class customers for seat reservation fees. British Airways has charged for Club World seat reservations for years, and other airlines, such as Finnair, Qatar Airways, and Emirates, offer their lowest fares without complimentary seat selection.
Lufthansa is also expected to begin charging for seat reservations when it rolls out its new Allegris Business Class product, featuring seven different seating options, including highly coveted suites with fully-flat beds, from early next year.
This trend of charging for additional services that were previously included in the price of Business Class tickets is becoming more prevalent in the industry. However, it’s important to note that not all passengers are affected by these fees, as elite loyalty program members and those booking flexible fares often still enjoy complimentary seat selection.
Implications for Passengers’ Experience
The introduction of seat reservation fees in Air France and KLM’s Business Class can negatively impact passengers’ perception of the overall experience. Charging customers for the basic privilege of sitting next to their friends, colleagues, or loved ones on a long-haul flight may not be the best way to maintain customer satisfaction.
Nevertheless, passengers can still choose to wait until the check-in window opens 30 hours before departure to select their seats for free, mitigating the impact of the new fee structure. Loyal customers with elite Flying Blue membership or those booking Business Flex fares will also continue to enjoy complimentary seat selection, ensuring that their experience remains largely unchanged.
Air France and KLM’s decision to introduce seat reservation fees in Business Class on long-haul flights reflects the growing trend of unbundling premium services in the airline industry. While this move may be disappointing for some passengers, it is essential to understand the new fee structure and adjust booking strategies accordingly.