APEX Insight: From booking to post flight, the opportunities to buy while traveling are abundant. In Part Two of “Points of Purchase,” we look beyond cabin classes at upsells for seating upgrades.
According to a survey conducted by Global Strategy Group in 2009, over half of American adults would rather be stuck in traffic, go on a blind date or visit the dentist than sit in a middle seat on an airplane.
Brad Pursel decided he was through with sitting idly by while he and fellow passengers endured the middle seat, so he founded Seateroo in 2014. The service allows travelers to swap seats by bidding via an app. While the minimum bid is set at $5, the average price users are willing to pay for a better economy seat on a short-haul flight is around $20. But, according to Pursel, this amount grows steadily as flight length increases. He cites a decrease in seat pitch and more personalization as the reasons why a slew of similar services has emerged over the past decade: “Given the increased ability for consumers to customize products and experiences to their specific desires, passengers are more interested in in-flight comfort than they were in the past.”
“Passengers are more interested in in-flight comfort than they were in the past.” – Brad Pursel, Seateroo
Seat upgrade services are proponents of the sharing economy, which has gained momentum in recent years as companies like Airbnb and Uber facilitate peer-to-peer transactions. Plusgrade, which launched in 2009, counts over 55 airlines as customers, including Singapore Airlines, Virgin America and Hawaiian Airlines. Real-time bidding services like SeatBoost and Seatfrog enable passengers to upgrade until minutes before boarding. With more than 13,700 users, SeatBoost has upgraded 94 percent of available seats on Virgin America flights departing from Las Vegas McCarran International Airport and San Francisco International Airport since the program went live this past spring.
Air New Zealand currently offers the option to upgrade to Skycouch – a row of three economy seats with a footrest extension that creates a flexible space, which is more conducive to sleeping on long-haul flights. China Airlines and Brazil’s Azul have licensed Air New Zealand’s Skycouch design, while Air Astana came up with its own “Sleeper Class” service.
Seat upgrade services have likely been so successful because they’re mutually beneficial – the passenger can enjoy an improved in-flight experience while the airline generates ancillary revenue. Thanks to these services, passengers can bid adieu to the days of gazing forlornly at a vacant aisle seat while caught in the middle.
“Moving on Up” was originally published in the multipart feature, “Points of Purchase,” in the October/November issue of APEX Experience magazine.