Aegean Airlines: advance seat reservation at a cost, and unfair passenger treatment
(This is an English-language version of the original article written in Greek.)
On February 1st 2018, Aegean Airlines enabled the preferred seat reservation option at a cost for most of its routes. Although they’re not the first airline to offer this, they managed to do it in the worst possible way. Before I explain my negative position against this, let me walk you through the options of this new feature, before and especially after online check in opens.
The new seat reservation policy
All information are available in this particular page of company’s website:
(I won’t deal at all with business class seats, as these can be reserved free of charge once the ticket is purchased, either from the website or by calling the call center. That was anyway the case thus far.)
Aegean Airlines distinguishes economy class seats into three (3) types: Standard, Up Front and Extra Legroom. By clicking at the leftmost link “Choosing the ideal seat for you” one can see information about each seat type:
Going back to the previous page and clicking the rightmost link “Charges, refunds and changes” one can see the facts in detail:
Let me walk you through the most important points:
Economy Standard seats
– All passengers, regardless of being members of Miles+Bonus frequent flyer program, and regardless of having or not any status with it, can select an available Economy Standard seat FOR FREE, once online check in opens (48 hours before departure).
– Passengers that have a Gold status in Miles+Bonus program can reserve in advance an available Economy Standard seat FOR FREE, from the moment they purchase the flight ticket. That was also available for Gold members in the past, via the call center.
Economy Up Front and Economy Extra Legroom seats
– All passengers, regardless of being members of Miles+Bonus frequent flyer program, and regardless of having or not any status with it, can reserve in advance an available Up Front or Extra Legroom seat AT A COST, from the moment they purchase the flight ticket. This is available either online or via the call center.
– Passengers that have a Gold status in Miles+Bonus program enjoy 50% discount for advance reservation of Up Front seats. There’s no discount at all for Extra Legroom seats.
Seats on Public Service Obligation routes and turboprop aircrafts
For flights served with turboprop aircrafts (ATR, Dash 8 Q400, Dash 8-100) and/or Public Service Obligation routes (flights to smaller destinations that are somewhat obligatory by law, in order to serve the people who live there) there’s no charge for seat selection, in the sense that seats are not categorized as above.
Changes and Refunds
– Changing from Up Front to Economy Extra Legroom results in paying the difference in the price.
– If a passenger has reserved in advance a preferred chargeable seat and he/she cancels the ticket afterwards, then there’s no refund for the seat reservation cost. The same applies if he/she changes the flight and the originally reserved seat type is not available for the new flight.
– For involuntary seat changes incurred due to operational reasons (such aircraft change or other safety or security causes), where the new seat is not equivalent with the originally reserved, there will be a refund.
Now, let’s delve into the very essence of this change and see the negative side of it…
Unfair treatment no. 1: Gold status privilege devaluation
Before this new policy was introduced, Gold members of Miles+Bonus program could make an advanced seat reservation of any available seat, regardless if it was up front or at an exit row, FREE OF CHARGE, simply by calling the airline’s call center. With the new policy, even Gold members have to pay for a “privileged” seat reservation, and there’s no discount at all for Extra Legroom seats!
Unfair treatment no. 2: privileged seats will also be charged AFTER online check in opens!
When i received the newsletter I spent a good amount of time to go through every detail, and I realized that there’s no reference at all about what happens after online check in opens for all passengers (48 hours before departure). I assumed that at that time all available economy seats, regardless of their type will be available to all passengers following the classic “first come first served” logic as it happens with every other airline. However, being skeptical by nature, I call the airline to verify what exactly is applicable.
To my great disappointment, the call center agent informed me that even after online check in opens for passengers, privileged seats (Up Front and Extra Legroom) will still be CHARGEABLE! Simply speaking, even if there are still available some privileged seats right before check in closes, because some passengers don’t want to pay, anyone who wants to select one of them has to pay!
I hang up and called again after a while, and asked the other call center agent what happens if one shows up at the airport and choses to check in at the automatic check in machines that are available. The answer was that privileged seats won’t be available at these machines, and if one goes to the check in counter and asks for a privileged seat he/she has to pay for it!
At that moment I thought I should also ask the company via it’s Facebook page, so i sent my message. Next morning I got their reply which is shown below in Greek, and which I translate for you (only the reply from Aegean):
“Good afternoon Sotiris, when check-in opens 48 hours before departure, up front and extra legroom seats will still be available at a cost, while standard seats will be free of charge. If a passenger shows at the airport check in counter and all free of charge seats are already assigned to others, and at the time there are still available up from ant extra legroom seats, in that case there will be no charge. Thank you and we remain at your disposal.”
Their reply just confirms the biggest of all unfair treatments:
Unfair treatment no. 3: passengers who select to check in at the airport could get a privileged seat for free!
Imagine a passenger that doesn’t bother checking in online and just shows up at the airport an hour and a half or so before departure. Many passengers do that anyway.
Let’s assume that, when that passenger reaches the check in counter, there’s no standard economy seat available. Let’s also assume that the only seats available at the time are 2 at an exit row and another 2 at the front. According to the company’s reply to my message, passengers that check in last will get a privileged seat FREE OF CHARGE, while at the same time the company asks for everyone else to pay for them until the very last moment! Well this is big time unfair treatment…
Let me say here that, if one checks in online and there are only privileged seats, he/she still has to pay for them, although there are no standard free of charge seats! For example, if one buys an expensive flexible ticket i.e. a few hours before departure, and at that moment there are only Extra Legroom seats available, he/she will have to pay 22€ for selecting a seat from his/her smartphone, because… why not!
I just can’t understand why Aegean Airlines decided to create such an unreasonable and punishing policy. Advanced seat reservations for flights are not something new, however the way this is implemented here has no reason behind it.
What we don’t know now, which is yet to be discovered soon, is how many of the seats will be marked as Up Front. I guess this will not be standard, it will depend on the demand for business class.
Also, it appears that nobody knows how the company will manage family seating. If for example Gold members reserve enough standard window and aisle seats well in advance, and a family wants 3 seats one next each other, that might not be available at the time. So how will families be treated…?
Finally, it is also unknown if Gold members will have a preferential treatment i.e. FREE OF CHARGE assignment of privileged seats at the gate at the time of boarding. I wouldn’t expect anything on that front, considering that operational upgrades to business class with this company are extremely rare anyway…
With this new policy, Aegean Airlines damaged a lot their otherwise good reputation. I still don’t understand how they’d expect people to spend 16€ or 22€ for a seat, when the flight ticket could have cost them 19€ or 29€ or 49€. Even the most frequent travellers, who usually have a Gold status, won’t be easily convinced to pay even 8€ for an Up Front seat because the company charges the seats even after online check in opens, and because we all know that those who show up last moment at the airport will get them for free!
Let’s see if Aegean Airlines understands how bad an unfair this new policy is, and eventually amends it…