Since flying involves woefully few pleasures, the surprising little luxuries that appear out of nowhere are capable of salvaging a flight. Free warm cookies. An unexpected upgrade. Landing 10 minutes early. Or, possibly best of all, the moment you realize the plane is taking off and no one is sitting next to you.
History has taught travelers that if it's pleasurable, it can be monetized. Etihad Airways -- recently ranked as the world's eighth-best airline -- is preparing to charge for the pleasure of "neighbor-free seats" in economy class. For the right price, passengers will have the option to bid for up to three empty seats in their row, which would be awfully nice if you want to lay down on a red-eye flight.
The Abu Dhabi-based airline said in a statement that customers will be able to enter a price they're willing to pay to keep a warm, snoring body out of the seat next to them. Successful bids will be confirmed 30 hours before takeoff. Staff will place a red headrest on seats that are to remain empty, keeping opportunistic co-passengers from making your empty seat their drool bucket. Bids will be accepted up to 35 hours before the flight.
Other airlines have tried similar schemes. Virgin Atlantic allows customers to bid on a seat upgrade. The airline also tested a program like Etihad's but ended it in May 2016.
Etihad's service is live now and is subject to availability. If the flight is sold out, no one will be charged for their bid. It's not clear how much bids will go for, but the airline says it will be "affordable." This is economy class, after all.
The surprising joy of finding out you aren't sitting by someone may be gone, but you can still grab a little of that joy for the right price.
Correction: The article previously said the program launches July 3. The program is, in fact, currently live.
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