KLM Adding Fee For Economy Seat Assignments

KLM published a press release today entitled “More seat choice for KLM’s frequent flyers on intercontinental flights.” Cool, who doesn’t like more choices?

The press release has a summary at the top, which reads as follows:

Effective 1 December 2015, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines will phase in new reservation options for Economy Class seats on flights from 26 January 2016. This means frequent flyers with Flying Blue Platinum, Gold or Silver status, as well as passengers with a Full Flex Economy ticket, will have a wider range of options for directly reserving seats when booking.

KLM-Economy

Still sounds good to me! Though what exactly are these “reservations options” which are being phased in starting for flights early next year?

This will be a paid option for all other passengers who wish to reserve their seat directly when booking. These passengers can select their preferred seat for EUR 20 per leg of their journey.

Free seat selection still possible
In addition, passengers with special needs due to physical disabilities will be assigned seats early on in the booking process. KLM will also ensure that families with young children can sit together. Seat selection at check-in, from 30 hours ahead of departure of intercontinental flights, will remain free of charge for all passengers with a standard Economy Class ticket.

Choice and control
With this new approach to seat reservation, KLM can optimally meet the wishes of its passengers. This ties in with KLM’s efforts to offer passengers greater choice and control. Other services that expand passengers’ range of choices include the option of Economy Comfort seating and à-la-carte meals on intercontinental flights.

Of course we’re used to airlines spinning negative changes as “enhancements,” though this one is sort of hilarious. KLM will begin charging non-elite and non-full fare passengers 20EUR for seat assignments in advance on longhaul flights. They’re describing these changes simply as a way for elite members to have a wider range of options, and for KLM to “optimally meet the wishes of [their] passengers.”

KLM-A330

Bottom line

Ultimately I don’t blame “full service” airlines for these kinds of changes. They’re having to compete with both low cost carriers and Gulf carriers, and that means segmenting the market as much as they can. In many ways they’re best off trying to compete on both fronts, whereby they charge those looking for the lowest fares for add-ons, while also offering as premium of a product as possible to win over business travelers.

KLM-Business-Class-747-04
KLM’s very nice business class product

I don’t think charging for seat assignments on longhaul flights in advance is unreasonable, at least in economy. British Airways charging for seat assignments in business class is a different story, however.

What do you make of KLM adding a 20EUR fee for economy seat assignments?

Comments

  1. Yep, paying for any seat sucks, but this will soon be the case for all airlines, unless you want to wait until check in.

    I personally don’t mind paying to get the seat I want for $20-$40 for a long haul flight.

    I flew Southwest yesterday and would prefer if they did the same and got rid of their terrible boarding practice, I would be happy to pay $10 – $15 for my seat so I don’t have to crowd on. Much like the way easyjet went from the everyone running for the plane, to making you pay 3 – 5 euros for assign a seat. Much less hassle.

  2. Speaking of KLM, how are planning to leave DPS?

    KLM has a 5 freedom flight DPS-SIN on B77W during the evening, J seats cost 330-350USD oneway.

    And if you are looking for choices from SIN there some 5 freedom flight to KUL that look interesting at around 300 USD.

    Oman J on a A332.

    And if you are feeling adventurous
    Uzbekistan Airways J on a 767 in 2-1-2 config, there is a review on Flyertalk.

  3. It’s absolutely right that easyjet improved 100% overnight when they switched over to assigned seating – it means that I will actually use them now, I wouldn’t before because of the really undignified scrum – which was at its worst at the gate. Saying that I have just paid £75 to reserve my J seat on the upper deck of a BA 747 to JFK in a couple of weeks – whereas my AA J seat reservation on the return was free….It’s hard not to be a little disappointed with BA in those circumstances. However I accept it was my “choice”.

  4. And not forgetting that AF flies a B77W SIN-CGK with both new F and J. New J is about 270 USD, new F is 1000-1200 USD depending on direction.

    And finally KLM runs a B772 KUL-CGK with J costing from 200 to 270 USD depending on direction

    Flight to CGK seems to be cheapest.

    KLM DPS-SIN Oman SIN-KUL KLM KUL-CGK AF CGK-SIN? Should make for a unique review.

  5. @Santastico

    With Mr. Anderson everything that means more ancillaries is a matter of time unfortunately.

    And given their JV it only increases the likelihood of it happening.

    The Airlines are taking advantage of low oil prices to do this but when prices increases let’s see what they do to put us in their planes.

  6. This reinforces my belief that Spirit Airlines is at the forefront of innovation. In the long run, all airlines will be like Spirit. Greyhound of the skies. I bought Spirit stock because I truly believe this to be the case

  7. For my recent KLM/AF flight to CPT (from YUL), it was either the option of confirming extra leg-room seats for about $150 US each leg (4 legs total) or change the date (depart one day early) and buy up the fare (for extra 300 US + 200 US change fee) to premium economy via all AF metal. Long layover in CDG, but ST E+ status (via AZ) gives me lounge in CDG… mileage earning goes from 25% to 125%… and more comfortable seats with seat assignments included. A no brainer for me.

  8. Ben, I disagree. I very much think that things like frequent flier miles based on miles actually flown and free assigned seats are specifically what differentiates them from Norwegian and Wow. Otherwise, why bother flying KLM?

  9. British Air charges over $100 for advance seat selection in business between SFO and LHR and $56 between SEA and LHR in Premium Economy.I did two round trips between SEA and LHR in Premium Economy this year.  The charge for advance seat selection was $56 each leg.  Before I flew from Seattle on each occasion,  bulkhead row seats later became available.   On their system, I paid an extra $27 and received a credit of $56.Both times, on the way back, bulkhead row seats became available.   Both times, I changed  my seat and did not receive a credit but did pay $85.  On the first occasion, I called and spent over an hour on the phone (mostly waiting)and spoke with someone who ultimately took care of the refund.  On the second occasion, I had to write a letter about the situation.  I did and it took nearly a month for the charge of $56 to get reversed on the credit card.The difficulty serves their financial interest, because the refund process is delayed and quite non-responsive.

  10. @yen4travel: Similar experience with LH. Reserved/Paid seats in Eco for friends and later paid-upgraded them to Premium-Eco.
    Did not automatically received a refund for the eco seat reservation. Had to jump through some hoops and different call center until finally sending an email with boarding pass etc to LH and only than received a full refund.

  11. Maybe I’m old school, but an assigned seat and a checked bag should be included in the price of a ticket. Particularly for a long-haul flight.

  12. People, stop being cattle… Simply refuse to pay extra for assigned seats, this is ridiculous (esp. for long-haul). BA is the worse: between “fuel charges” (why? fuel is the cheapest in a decade!) and extra $ for assigned seats even in premium classes this airline is just trying to nickel and dime you for all your worth.

    Of course, I avoid BA and similar airlines whenever possible. And worst case scenario: well, you get a seat, none is really that bad in premium classes anyway.

  13. After posting here about system not giving credit on two flights back but giving credit on way over, I decided to submit a complaint by email to British Air about burdensome nature of process and delay. I communicated the decision led to flying a different airline for trip next May to Dublin. I have my seat assignment T no cost and am avoiding LHR transfer.

    I found a good redemption for a second trip to Ireland through LHR and liquidated all but Avios 100 points. In the future, I will not accumulate Avios on BA and will liquidate points on regional flights in Australia or Asia.

    My experience getting the refund which was necessary in one direction but not the other convinced me to look for other options.

    I did nine overseas trips on Delta and stopped flying them when they revised their mileage plan partnership with Alaska.

  14. I will accumulate Avios points on the BA Chase Visa. The card provides good rental car benefits in Ireland and Northern Ireland and no foreign currency conversion fees.

    The so called companion certificate is essentially not redeemable. The availability of award seats is so limited that two reward seats are rarely available.

  15. Fees for regular seats suck big time. Especially when you’re flying with family/friends and want to sit together.
    This is one reason why I prefer EK – you can choose your seat of choice right after booking, without any fees.

  16. This wasn’t the reason, but I am glad I stopped flying KLM regularly a while ago. Only thing I miss is the AMS airport.

  17. I flew with British Airways in 2014. There was a problem of their making on my return flight. They handled it so well that I flew with again last year. I booked a trip to UK for later this year. I went back into my reservation today to select my seats and found the $51.00 charge each way. I can either pay $102 to select an aisle seat or take pot luck with online check in. That pot luck could easily be up against a restroom or squished between two strangers. This will be my last trip with British Airways! What a rip.

  18. For a number of reasons I am not that inclined to fly British any longer.

    I don’t mind the seat selection charges but the hassle on two different trips when I had to contact them to get a refund for not getting a credit for what I had already paid when I got a better seat annoyed me a lot. They did give me a refund after I submitted a letter and explanation. I kept a copy of the letter because I will most likely have to write it again if they don’t change the system to track credits and automatically apply payments already made.

    I am flying business from SFO to LHR and then on to Dublin. Advance seat selection for business is $112. I was surprised to see that they are charging that much. Unfortunately, I read that all is not what it might seem as some business class seats are not all that great.

    I’d add that I have had the experience of flying multiple times on Cathay Pacific and Qantas. Hard to look forward to flying British Air after flying on these carriers. I am trying American business class in May and will avoid LHR on way to Dublin. I have to say that avoiding LHR is a real plus. I will try IcelandAir as another alternative for travel from Seattle to Europe.

    Delta Comfort is decent but I get limited mileage credit for miles flown so I no longer fly Delta.

  19. Fourteen long haul flights with KLM in 4 years and I am still Ivory status. I’ve asked about upgrades but they always have a reason to knock me back. Now I’ve just been told I have to pay 30 euros to book seats for each leg of my flight next month. I thought it was 20 euros.
    This will be my last flight with KLM..

  20. This is really ridiculous. It seems that most of the commentators above are either ridiculously wealthy, or their companies pay all these expenses. The ordinary person for whom a long haul flight is already extremely expensive can just not afford this, now we have to have all the worst seats? It costs the airlines nothing to have seats booked in advance, so why make money from something that does not cost them anything? I am extremely disappointed in KLM.

  21. Just booked transatlantic return on KLM. Had flown with them last year and remembered that I could book an aisle seat for free. Got a nasty surprise after paying for my ticket: will have to pay a twenty euro fee each way. And will most likely be on an almost 30 year old aircraft with a >10 year old IFE system.

    And they call themselves a full service airline.

    Next time I fly United.

  22. Same thing here. Since 2008, I flew with hubby several times long haul international roundtrips (2x 30+ hrs, 3 legs each) and was very happy with their service. I recommended them often. Now this time we are taking the family of 8, I convinced them to fly KLM because of former good experiences, although there were slightly cheaper tickets available with other airlines.
    What a nasty surprise! First, we got ripped off because one KLM service employee made false promises to hold an affordable reservation for several days longer, with “many more available“ only to find the tickets were gone later, so we ended up dishing out almost 500 EUR more than planned already. Now I learn there will be even several 100 EUR more for the seats, as of course we like to sit together (and I bet strangers don’t really want to sit next to us because we will bring 2 babies).
    This is ridiculous. KLM, you are getting too greedy for my liking. I will definitely fly a different airline in the years to come.

  23. I agree that KLM is getting greedy.

    I have flown quite a bit in the last 5 years and never before have I had to pay an extra fee to select my seat in ECONOMY CLASS. I understand an up-charge on Economy Plus and First/Business class, but there is absolutely no reason to charge a seat assignment fee for economy class. The only benefit for seat selection is not being stuck in between two people you do not know.

    Those saying they don’t mind paying the extra fee are either wealthy enough to afford it or don’t have to directly pay for their flight.

    I will be avoiding KLM from now on as much as possible. They obviously do not care about the average traveler who is most likely on a budget.

    To the publisher, please write your articles for more than just the 400,000 miles a year travelers. You obviously do not write for the readers, but for yourself and your small circle of super elite travelers. Most of us unlike you can’t afford to fly first class using only miles.

  24. Dear KLM. A suggestion: put your economy price up the Euro40 you want to charge for a seat (return), no-one is price sensitive for that amount when buying a ticket worth A$1800. People also buy tickets based on arrival times at the destination, not just price. I could have flown for A$300 less with an airline who’s arrival time to AMS wasn’t optimal. BUT, surprise me with an extra charge simply to select a seat on a plane and you’ve lost me. My last KLM flight will take place this year if this policy remains in place. Competition is not only based on price, it is also based on trust and relationship. I can’t recall reading about costs to select a seat when I booked the ticket. Trust gone, relationship waning. You’ll get my last Euro40 so that I can have an aisle seat and not feel claustrophobic. Of course, once all airline implement this policy they’ll start removing it as a “benefit” of flying with them.

  25. Absolutely ridiculous. Travelling soon with 5 children and was unaware about this policy. 4 legs of flying all longer than 8 hours each and they want $23 / seat to pick it. 7 seats – 4 legs…..$644 to pick our seats. Maybe we should leave our kids all over the aircraft and let the flight attendants help.

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