March 12, 2010 / 7:35 AM / 9 years ago

Paying to pick seats loathsome, many passengers say

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Paying for extras has become routine for airline passengers but it doesn’t mean they like it, with a poll showing more than half all travelers hate having to fork out to choose their seat.

A passenger stands in front of the main board in the departure hall at Frankfurt airport July 28, 2008. REUTERS/Alex Grimm

The online poll of nearly 2,000 people by website, asked respondents which airline fees they despised the most.

Paying for the privilege of picking their seat was the biggest bugbear for 52 percent of respondents, followed by paying to change flights — something which irked a third of passengers.

A minority, or 14 percent, said they didn’t like paying extra for snacks while just 3 percent said they were happy to pay for any extra services.

George Hobica, president of, said airlines were annoying passengers by adding to what many people consider the already high cost of air travel.

“There are certain airline services that really do involve added expense,” he said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

“These include meals (for obvious reasons), transporting and checking bags (fuel and labor), and even to a certain degree changing your date of travel.”

“But assigning a seat, which can be done online for virtually no transaction cost to the airline? It’s simply a way to generate revenue and not to cover a tangible expense. I think passengers realize this and that’s why they’re so annoyed by it.”

Hard hit by the financial crisis, many airlines across the globe, and especially in the United States, have started charging passengers for services that used to be free: check-in baggage, drinks and snacks, for example.

While this is the norm — and in a way expected — on budget airlines, travelers have expressed dismay at the fees levied by big carriers as they try and offset losses caused by the drop in travel caused by the global economic downturn.

According to Rick Seaney, chief executive of online ticketing website, there are than a dozen different fees that airlines add onto the basic ticket price, including fees for ticket rescheduling, oversize bags and meals.

One of the more controversial charges, put in place by Southwest Airlines and United Airlines in the United States following passenger complaints, involves asking overweight passengers to buy a second seat, which can be refunded if the plane is not full.

Several major U.S. carriers, including American Airlines and Continental Airlines, have said they would continue to explore new fees and cost-cutting measures to enhance profitability while demand for air travel among business customers picks up.

Writing by Miral Fahmy; Editing by David Fox

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