Virgin Atlantic to charge passengers for seat reservations

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic (VA) is planning to charge passengers £25 to reserve their seat in advance from next year, according to reports.

Citing a notification on Virgin’s website, the Telegraph said that the fees of £50 for a round-trip long-haul flight will be introduced from April 1 on flights from Gatwick to Las Vegas.

The same charge will be introduced on services flying to Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Australia from the beginning of May. Customers on all remaining routes will be charged for selecting their seat from June 1, 2014. Passengers flying between the UK and Tokyo will remain exempt from the charge, Travelmole said in its report

Seat reservations will remain free of charge for those looking to book their seats within 24 hours of take-off. However, if passengers want to select a specific seat any earlier they will have to pay.

‘If fewer passengers choose seats in advance we would be able to re-seat most passengers in very similar seats to their original choices,’ Travelmole quoted a VA spokeswoman as saying. She said that the charge was being introduced as it was impossible to guarantee every seat chosen in advance, due to last-minute changes in the type of aircraft operating a route.

‘So from 1 May 2014 we will be introducing a charge to choose your economy seat in advance,’ she added.

The £25 per person, per flight charge on Virgin’s long-haul services will be reduced to £8 per person, per flight on Little Red domestic flights.

Passengers will be able to reserve their seat at the time of booking up to 336 days in advance. The fee will not apply to unaccompanied minors or to disabled passengers

Virgin’s competitor, British Airways, already charges £25 per flight (£50 return) if passengers want to select their seats on long-haul flights. Ryanair has announced that all of its flights will have allocated seating from February, after easyJet made a similar move.