While many airlines have done away with change and cancellation fees in recent years, there’s still a sneaky ‘seat selection’ fee that you’re not meant to notice when you choose your seat. However, you can avoid it altogether—here’s how.
How to avoid the ‘seat selection’ fee
For most consumers, it’s no secret that an airline’s listed seat price won’t include things like checked bags, onboard food, or wifi access. These extras are typically very clear when you book them because you understand what you’re getting for what you’re paying.
What the booking process makes less clear, though, is the “seat selection” fee, which merely reserves a specific seat for you (for an additional cost), even if it’s the same class of ticket as the seat ahead of it or behind it. Consumers tend not to notice this, however, because the seat selection screen doesn’t make it obvious that you can skip this step entirely—but you can.
Instead of selecting a seat, simply skip past the seat selection screen, and the airline will automatically assign you a seat for no extra charge. To do so, as USA Today recommends, look for a clickable option that says, “Skip seats for all flights,” “Continue with basic economy,” or “No thanks, I’ll take whatever,” usually at the bottom corner of the screen.
How to select your flight seat for free
It’s still possible to request specific seats if you politely ask the gate agent when you arrive at the airport. USA Today also mentions you show up an hour early to do this since gate agents will be less willing to do this the closer you get to your departure.
What you miss out on by declining to select your flight’s seat
While the seat selection fee is a cash grab, you could argue that it has some value. By not selecting your seat manually, you might:
- End up separated from your travelling companions (although there are airlines that allow families to sit together).
- Get stuck in the dreaded middle seat.
- Lose out on a favourite spot, like at the front of the plane.
Per Nerdwallet, seat fares vary depending on the airline. For some consumers, having their choice of seat is worth the cost, but if you’d rather pocket that money, you can avoid it completely.