Swiss Will Begin Charging Extra To Assign Select Business Class Seats

We’ve increasingly seen airlines try to boost ancillary revenue by charging for things that were previously free. Full service airlines like Emirates now charge for seat assignments in economy on select fares, and British Airways even charges for seat assignments in business class.

Now we’re seeing Swiss come up with a creative way to increase ancillary revenue in business class, as they’re making a change to their longhaul business class seat assignment policy. The news can be decent or horrible, depending on how you look at it.

Swiss has a staggered configuration in business class on their A330s, A340s, and 777s.

Swiss-Business-Class-A330-03

In these staggered configurations you have “throne seats,” which are basically single seats in the window area that are especially private. For example, below is a picture of one of these throne seats on Brussels Airlines.

Brussels-Airlines-Business-Class-1

As it stands, Swiss blocks most of these seats until the day of departure, except for HON Circle and Senator members in the Miles & More program, who can assign these seats in advance. For example, here’s their A330 seatmap showing which seats are blocked:

Swiss-Seatmap-2

And here’s the 777 seatmap:

Swiss-Seatmap-1

I can certainly see the logic of them reserving some business class seats for elite members. Often the most expensive business class fares are those booked last minute, so it’s not necessarily a bad ida to hold back many of these seats. However, Swiss holds back a vast majority of the throne seats, as you can see.

Well, it looks like Swiss will begin allowing passengers to pay extra to reserve business class throne seats on flights in advance, starting in late March. Per an email sent out to Miles & More members:

As a loyal and valued customer, we would like to inform you in advance about the following changes in SWISS Business.

With the remodeling of SWISS Business on long-haul routes, we have introduced exclusive single seats that are marked by more space and discretion. Due to the overwhelming demand concerning these “Privacy seats”, we will be giving our guests the opportunity to reserve these seats for a fee starting at the end of March.

As a token of our appreciation, we are delighted to continue offering these seats to you at no charge, as long as they are still available at the time of booking.

swiss-first-class-777-1

So, what does this mean in practice?

  • HON Circle & Senator members can continue to reserve these for free in advance, though may have more competition from non-elites who can pay to assign them
  • Presently non-elites can reserve a few, though not most, of the throne seats in business class in advance; under the new system they’ll have to pay for access to all throne seats, so they get more access to them, but at a cost

I think the real question is what the price point for these seats will be. Are we talking $50 to assign one of these seats, or $500? The thing is, I’m not sure they’re actually much better than the other seats. While they’re private and have plenty of shoulder space, the foot cubby for these seats is tiny, so I find it quite tough to sleep in them.

Bottom line

I’m conflicted about this change. Personally I think Swiss has been reserving too many of these seats for elite members, but given that, I suppose this change allows more people to access these seats. At the same time this change is leaving elite members frustrated, since they think there will be more competition for these seats.

I’ll be curious to see what kind of pricing Swiss comes up with for throne seats.

What do you make of airlines charging extra for more desirable seats in premium cabins?

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

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Comments

  1. Ok, so no swiss for me anymore. Business class fare is not enough for you? ek/qr are happy to take my money

  2. I fly Air Canada and all of their international business class seats are private in the most recent configurations. BTW, about those seat maps in the article – how do you know the throne seats are being “blocked?” Maybe paying customers have already selected them.

  3. Tends to highlight that Swiss business class is not especially competitive…..since all-aisle access should be the expectation…..and it sounds like they are years away from that standard.

  4. Swiss has very high Premium cabin loads. Their 777s have 62 business class seats, the most out of any long-haul 777 operator. They fill the cabin often an it is rarely below 90% capacity during peak seasons. As such, they tend to sell two different types of business class, “direct aisle access” and “2-2-2”. (By the way, i know its five across 1-2-2, 2-2-1)

  5. Swiss certainly thinks very highly of their product to make this move. It seems a bit foolish, considering that all aisle access has increasingly become the norm.

  6. Those throne seats have horribly tight foot cubbies with very little space so this doesn’t bother me in the slightest as having flown in one I’d never pick it again!

  7. It’s common to charge extra to secure better seats within most classes of service on many airlines. I don’t see why this is anything out of the ordinary. Better stuff costs more, jeez.

  8. I flew 2 segments last week on Swiss in the throne seats which I was able to change to at the check in desk. Yes they are more private but I find the hard product a bit dated, seat and leg space a bit narrow but I would probably pay up to $150 extra to reserve these seats at booking. By the way, business was 60% full and there were 2 available throne seats that nobody bothered to sit in!

  9. A cheap move becoming of a cheap airline in monkey class. Yet business class isn’t cheap.

  10. Conflicted about this as well as it seems to “downgrade” business class. Up to know, its been all inclusive. I’ve always succeeded in booking “privacy” seats last minute. I think few people actually knew that these seats free up last minute (never mind the fact that there is always a good chance that a SEN or HON being bumped to first on check in).

    On the A333, I actually prefer the individuals seats towards the aisle, the seats towards the windows feel cramped (I’m 6’2). On the 777 all the seats are much more private.

    I have a trip planed next year with 4 long haul segments with SWISS. to upgrade to 4 privacy seats would cost about 1k, that seems a little ridiculous.

    If you ask me they should just keep reserving a few for SENs and HONs and just stop letting award tickets from booking the seats.

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