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Qantas to charge passengers extra for exit row seats

| 25.05,09. 08:22 PM |

Qantas to charge passengers extra for exit row seats

May 25, 2009 - 2:14PM

Qantas will introduce new fees of up to $160 for emergency exit row seats which offer extra leg room on long-haul overseas flights.

Under new plans confirmed today the airline will introduce a pre-purchase option for emergency exit row seats for international trips in economy class.

"This will give customers greater choice and access to seats that offer more leg room. A similar service is offered by many other airlines," an airline spokesperson said in a statement.

The new fees are still being finalised, however, the airline will likely charge consumers $80 for shorter flights and $160 for longer flights. Under the changes, Trans-Tasman flights will be excluded.

Frequent flyers will also be able to use points to pre-purchase the seats (ranging from 10,000 to 20,000 points).

The changes come as the airline also confirmed it would drop first-class travel on three of its longer overseas flights this winter as the economic downturn continues to eat into demand for top-end services.

The airline will not sell first-class fares for the Sydney-Buenos Aires route, the Sydney-San Francisco and the Melbourne-Hong Kong-London route until October 31.

"As a result of the economic downturn Qantas, like many other international airlines, has experienced reduced demand in premium cabins," Qantas executive manager Rob Gurney said. "Economy demand remains relatively strong."

He said the airline would monitor demand on these routes and hoped to reintroduce the first-class offer "as soon as possible".

Research by the International Air Transport Association has shown that business and first-class passenger numbers dropped by almost 20% in the first quarter of 2009.

However, domestically, seats are filling up. Lower domestic airfare prices and government stimulus payments have meant fewer empty seats in March than there were a year ago, according to new Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government figures. They show 78.2 per cent of seats on domestic and regional airlines were occupied in March 2009, up for 78 per cent a year earlier.


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