One of the trials of flying with no-frills airlines is having to endure the undignifed scrum of passengers queuing in the departure lounge and then racing to secure a decent seat on the plane.
It is especially stressful on busy flights, and for those travelling with children concerned that they may end up being seated among strangers. It means that time which could be enjoyed relaxing over a meal or shopping at the airport, is instead spent standing in a badly-organised line at the departure gate.
[Related article: EasyJet to trial allocated seating]
The poor treatment of economy-class passengers by airlines and airports, and particularly the issues of boarding and seat allocation, has been an issue which Telegraph travel has long campaigned on. With luck, EasyJet’s move will herald a sea-change in the approach no-frills airlines take towards their passengers.
According to Carolyn McCall, chief executive of EasyJet, surveys of passengers who have flown on flights trialling the new service have shown that the offer of allocated seating would mean they would be more likely to fly with the airline in future. The airline also admits that “the current boarding process can be a source of stress for some passengers and in some cases puts people off flying with EasyJet altogether.” It’s just a shame that it has taken them so long to realise this.
[Related article: Futuristic aircraft seat unveiled]
Of course, in the tradition of no-frills airlines, EasyJet has seen an opportunity to charge for the service. Passengers who want to choose their seat must pay at the time they book the flight. It will cost £12 for extra leg room (front row and exit rows), £8 for seats near the front (row 2-5 on the Airbus A319 or 2-6 on the A320) and £3 for any other seat. Passengers buying more expensive, flexible tickets will not have to pay. Those who don't pay extra will be automatically allocated a seat at check in, and the airline promises that families and those on the same bookings will be seated together “wherever possible.”
[Related article: Stand-up airline seats unveiled]
Whether the airline’s “Speedy Boarding” service, where passengers pay extra to board the aircraft first and have access to a dedicated check-in, will prove popular enough to be worth continuing remains to be seen.
What more improvements do we want to see from no-frills airlines? Top of the list must surely be a more flexible approach to baggage. After the boarding scrum, the most stressful part of flying is trying to drag a heavy cabin bag, stuffed to the seams with clothes and kit, in the hope of avoiding the swingeing charges to check in luggage.
More from the Telegraph.