Emirates Will Start Charging For Advance Seat Assignments On Many Fares

Filed Under: Emirates

While Gulf carriers are known by many for their great service and over the top amenities, there’s no doubt these government owned carriers are suffering amid falling oil prices, as they’re under pressure to cut costs and increase revenue.

Perhaps not surprising, but it has just been announced that Emirates will begin charging for seat assignments on many economy fares as of October 3, 2016. The new charge will apply for Economy Special and Economy Saver fares, though it won’t apply for Economy Flex, Economy Flex Plus, Business Class, and First Class fares.


As before, all passengers will be able to select seats for free through online check-in, starting 48 hours out.

So, how bad will the fees be? Per Business Traveller, the cost to assign a seat will be anywhere between 15USD and 40USD per sector:


So for a roundtrip you’re looking at anywhere between 30USD and 80USD, or for a trip with a connection in each direction, you’re looking at 60USD to 160USD. That’s not an insignificant amount, especially when you consider that you’re not even getting a better seat than you’d otherwise have access to, but rather just have first dibs at reserving one.


Given that Emirates carries a lot of “workers” to/from the Gulf, I suspect they have a lower percentage of passengers who would be willing to pay for seats, or even check-in 48 hours out. So personally I probably wouldn’t pay to assign a seat, given that I can’t imagine you’d have much trouble snagging a decent seat 48 hours out.

However, I assume there will be significant variance by route. For example, I imagine a lot more people will pay for seat assignments on flights to/from Australia and the US than on flights to/from Pakistan and Bangladesh, for example.

I’m curious how long it takes Etihad and Qatar to match this new policy of Emirates.

Are you surprised to see Emirates now charging for seat assignments on many fares?

(Tip of the hat to The Points Guy)

  1. @ Usman — Not sure how that’s racist? The (sad) reality is that over 90% of the workforce in the UAE is from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, and unfortunately in many cases those workers are horribly mistreated and working for very low wages.

  2. Etihad already charges for certain seat assignments in Economy.

    And the workforce in the UAE is not 90% from the Indian subcontinent. Closer to only 60%.

  3. Does this mean people can select and pay for an exit-row seat? Etihad has allowed this for years (for an extra charge), but Emirates has never allowed it. Perhaps there’ll be a change on this too.

  4. Vewwy interesting… that Emirates (which most would consider a premium-service Middle East mega carrier) has adopted the same “race to the bottom” a la carte pricing tactics that low-cost carriers (and mainline carriers in the U.S.) have been using.

    And while it’s a separate topic, it will be interesting to see how Emirates is affected by its reliance on its huge fleet of A380s, while other global carriers such as Singapore, Qantas and BA freeze their A380 fleets at much more modest numbers. Will Emirates still have any cachet with a fleet of 100+ 25-year old A380s?

  5. This isn’t a big deal. Etihad, British, Virgin; they all have similar policies and I just select a seat about 24 hours in advance — as early as possible — and always get an aisle seat.

  6. This is just a part of the global trend in which flying is increasingly becoming a hassle rather than pleasure, with a lot of “nickel and dime”. It starts at the security check point where we are asked pay to receive the kind of screening everyone got for free a few years ago. I fully expect that one of these days some airline will installa vending machine in the toilets where you can buy a few sheets of toilet paper or a soap sheet. 🙂

  7. As long as they have young energetic no-rights cabin crew they will continue to have advantage over legacies. No other country can replicate their model without breaking local laws.

  8. Screw EK, recalcitrant airline, recalcitrant Middle Eastern people. And of you think that’s racist, damn straight. As I said, screw them.

  9. I did some follow up with Emirates. It does not matter what level you are with them. If you purchase the lower fares, you MUST pay to select a seat before the 48 hour check in window. Disappointing……..

  10. All you airlines can suck it. Your in flight customer service is horrible, and your flight attendants are generally old bitter women who don’t even want to be there. What’s next, you gonna charge me to take a piss?

  11. Paying for seats on International flight when 2 sectors involved means paying $80 per person which is a lot of money. This is ridiculous. This way the popularity of Emirates will be down and travellers will switch to other airlines which could be cheaper in total cost.

  12. I only discovered this myself as I finalised a booking to Aus for myself and wife. Wish I had chosen Etihad as it had anyway been a bit cheaper.
    We fly to Aus or Asia, 2 or 3 times a year, either holiday or family visits and have done so for last 20 years. Whenever possible we have stuck with Emirates. They were the first, quality gulf airline and led the way for the others. Now there are many, and also airlines like Turkish trying to muscle in.
    For our next trip we certainly wont look at Emirates first. We may not be high yield front of plane passengers but we have been regular and loyal for 20 years.
    Stuff them!

  13. ” Heading ” government owned carriers are suffering amid falling oil prices. How does an airline suffer from “Falling” oil prices. Quick to put on surcharges when it was up in the three digits.

  14. We have flown Emirates every year to New Zealand and recommended it to many friends. However, this year we have to pay £100 each to book our seats on the plane. Had we realised this, we would have considered flying with an alternative airline. We have always regarded Emirates as a quality airline but resorting to underhand charges like this is reminiscent of budget/Ryanair practices. In future, we will look more closely at other airlines who do not indulge in this practice.

  15. The problem is that all you middle class blokes and proles always choose the lower fare, no matter what. This is what is driving the race to the bottom. Until “the people” find their bottom, this will not end. Eventually, the piss-poor will not be able to fly at all.

  16. completeley out of mind, they will loose a lot of customer, crazy !!!
    Std rate is much more expensive than competitors already. Addign 100 USD for a flight won’t help.
    Who had this smart idea ?

  17. When you book, you are allocated a seat number by default. Although this is not visible when you query your booking via a browser, it is visible if you use their iPhone App (and I assume their Android App). If you are happy with the seats allocated by default, you don’t have to pay to change them. Also, you can change them for free 48 hours when checkin opens, as mentioned many times in this thread.

  18. I have recently booked 2 tickets with Emirates from Sydney to Birmingham UK via Dubai from 28/03/17 to 13/04/17, great reductions with early European fare bookings, however when selecting our seats we would have to pay an extra AUD $360.00 and we refuse to pay the extra fee & excepting we just wait 48 hrs before departure to select our seats for free. I have booked many past flights with Emirates however the airline is getting very greedy with new C/Card charges + seat selection charges …. What’s next !

  19. A complete rip off! Flying to Europe now with an internal connection to will cost now $120 more! This is using an online web server there is no cost to the airline here at all, or anything extra provided compared to before the ruling. I hope Emirates competitors cotton on to the free marketing they have been given by Emirates “use Eithad /Qatar…etc we do not charge you $120 to click and pick a seat” I also noticed they do not even allow you to use your miles to pay for your seat only your credit card.

  20. Pretty poor. 5 of us travelling with 3 kids under 4. Rang up the airline about seats and was told that we would have to pay $90 each way to secure seats from AUS to ENG. An extra $900 in total. I said, in that case will hold onto seats allocated and assume they will be together anyway. The attendant told me that was not guaranteed and there would be a good chance the seats may be separate on two legs at least.

  21. I am disabled and normally when I phone to request wheelchair assistance at the airports I get an aisle seat reserved. No longer – I have an Economy Saver in January LHR-DXB and this time I’ve been told that unless I pay up £20 each way I risk having to take a middle/window seat. That would prove extremely difficult/inconvenient for me and my fellow passengers. So, cost cutting to the extent of alienating certain demographics …

  22. Flying UK to Thailand every year to visit family I would always book Emirates. No more. The benefits of using them have slowly dwindled away and making your way through the Dubai Hub with a tight connection is insanely hard with that over-crowded terminal. We’ve tended to resist the non-stop from Heathrow option until now, but I think its time to switch back again. Booking with Thai from now on, quite sad really after 12 years with Emirates, me thinks they’ve shot themselves in the feet with guns borrowed from Ryannair and EasyJet !

  23. Just booked a flight to Glasgow didn’t realise you had to pay to book a seat I thought ok it’s only $35 not knowing that was only dubai to Glasgow $55 more if I want Perth to Dubai now I can’t cancel and get my $35 back ridiculous

  24. just going through my itinerary for June flights from Manchester to Saigon ( return ) didn’t have a clue about paying seat fees. £20 per person per flight- ludicrous. Used Emirates many times before but the moral of this story is plenty of ” window shopping ” before booking flights in future.

  25. Quite disappointed with Emirates charging for seat selection especially for Economy not a happy customer at all never thought they would do this .
    Very expensive per sector especially if it’s long haul I won’t be paying the extra think it’s a disgrace what next paying for your good on the flight…

  26. Discovered at the last minute.Ek was my favourite airline… It’s really going to costlier with family of four.

  27. Flew with Emirates for 10 years, service and freebies slowly declined, service got worse, Business class failed to bring me the welcome aboard drink on numerous occassions, tv didnt work in first class once, complaints went nowhere……………..stopped using them as of 2017
    Changes inc
    Frequent flyer program drastically reduced in all ways
    Lounge access drinks now have to be served in Dubai you cant help yourself, dont see the haggen daas ice cream there anymore
    Food is less, lounges got busier and busier so much so that I used to go to the skywards lounge instead as it was quieter at Dubai
    Service got worse over 10 years and at £2000 a ticket I expect a drink when i board not to be forgotten
    Chocolates changed from Godiva to some cheap crap and not offered freely
    Goody bags not given except on night flights, used to get them every section day or night
    Flights to Birmingham got really expensive from Thailand so much so I started to fly into Heathrow for £800 less
    Cant use miles to upgrade friends now as they get economy saver tickets despite saving the bloody things forever

    All in all Im glad to have dropped them but mainly service is crap now for Business travellers

  28. With my recent comment on the 02/12/16 & mostly commenting about the extra Emirates charges for seat allocation, We reluctantly caved in with my travel partner & ended up paying the extra AUD $360.00 for our selected seats, we both felt we didn’t have any choice when occasionally checking the vacant seats on the Emirates website and felt we would end up not sitting next to each other. Defiantly a different carrier with our future bookings next time & both feeling ripped off. Our 2 fares to Birmingham UK via Dubai didn’t turn out to be a bargain fare afterall …
    Seat allocation charges for 4 different flight segments ….
    Sydney to Dubai Direct AUD $55.00 X 2 = AUD $110.00
    Dubai to Birmingham Direct AUD $35.00 X 2 = AUD $70.00
    Birmingham to Dubai Direct AUD $35.00 X 2 = AUD $70.00
    Dubai to Sydney Direct AUD $55.00 X 2 = AUD $110.00
    TOTAL PAID AUD $360.00 & no extra C/Card fee on top of the 360.00

  29. Definitely a poor decision taken by Emirates. People who fly Emirates on average pay ticket prices of at least 600-1500 USD, so for them becoming so greedy and behaving like budget airlines and charging for seats is seriously surprising. Well, some people have said that seat is allocated by default and can change cost-free 48 hours prior check-in, but you see when you are paying close to 1500-2000 USD (a big amount for a big chunk of the populace) you expect to select a seat right away and NOT WORRY about it anymore before your flight.

    Like most people, I am not going to take Emirates again. Sorry gulf-airline but you have lost loyal customers. Previously I would pay slightly more for the ticket and take Emirates instead of say Turkish, but now I will definitely choose another airline and pay THEM more because seat selection will be free, and hence less worry on my part. Very disappointing and poor judgment by Emirates.

  30. I see that Turkish have just announced a similar new policy – not sure of the details but it seems that we are being ripped off at a new level now.

  31. A new low when there is yet another additional charge that no one knows about until after booking their flight!!!! be upfront Emirates

  32. A total ripoff. I am traveling on Emirates for business, but in the future I will select an airline that does not charge for seats.

  33. I am a frequent traveler with Emirates on the economy class. Seat selection fees is ridiculous.
    Will be looking for alternate airlines in future.

  34. Dr. Many airlines these days charge for seating assignments, it is becoming more and more of a thing. Remember the days when snacks and food was free in economy?

  35. Just booked a flight with Emirates and have been flying with them every year for the past 10 years, didn’t realise I would have to pay for my seats until after booking, will definitely be looking at a different airline next year.

  36. My wife and I have flown with Emirates for many years and this is the first time we were told to pay to reserve our seats.
    Seeing we have 6 separate legs that would be an extra $480 USD?
    Like others have said, they are not doing anything different to earn this money?
    Too greedy. Will now look at other airlines for this trip and in future.
    Good way to alienate your loyal customers Emirates!

  37. I have just discovered also that I will have to pay GBP 160 for 2 flights from Manchester England to Cape town via Dubai, and back to Manchester. After a lot of trouble I found out from the Chat line hat it would be GBP 160. Nowhere on their website could I find out how much it was going to cost me. How disgusting, last time we fly with Emerates

  38. Some excellent comments on here about Emirates charging for seats, a couple have been exactly like mine, booked my flights well in advance and then they drop the ryanair/easyjet bombshell way of charging to pick a seat, Emirates you have dropped your standards really low especially for long haul flights, i may expect it with short haul flights if you have any.
    I will also look at other alternative airlines to use for my travels, but i believe that Emirates are in the same bed as Qatar, the new joint partnership love in!! So are Qatar doing the same?
    There are a few comments on here about the service declining and i totally agree, as i have flown with Emirates for a good 6 years and with two or three times a year at a time, the service has got worse, ran out of the meal selection even thou i was in the middle and not the last seat, not serving drinks as regular than the past, soft or alcoholic, staff not the usual honest smile, now the fake smile. I sat next to an Emirates crew staff member travelling back to the UK from Dubai last year and she was telling me that Emirates may look good on the outside but underneath it is a horrible airline to work for and she was bailing out.
    Also when you take your seat before take off, the Emirates Radio Show on ‘ICE’ is automatically playing with Steve Harvey interviewing Emirates CEO’s about the future of the Emirates airline and the exiting new way forward for the customers, well i didn’t hear the charging of seats in any of the interviews, tut tut tut!!
    I will wait for the 48hr rush for seat selection and if i lose out, i shall just sit where you put me with my headphones on, waiting for the in-flight survey to pop up about Emirates, sitting next to another disgruntled Emirates victim, i mean customer.

  39. So I payed the Emirates rip off, select a seat money grab, for seats for us and a littly, to be together up front on an A380.
    Emirates, with no notification, changed the type of plane on that leg.
    Problem was it’s now on a 777, those seat numbers stuck us at the very rear of the plane. No notification of change of plane or seats, no offer of refund,
    Just very lucky I was checking the details of the flights.
    My advice, make sure you check, if you’ve bought seat Pre selection before the 48hr check-in ticks over, Emirates might give you the big, Screw you, chump

  40. It’s done in order to keep the fares “looking lower compared to the competition”, according to their call center agent, who was in tacit agreement with my complaint about their customer ethics and morality – or lack thereof. But of course they are trained to give a certain set of answers and basically it’s a take it or leave it attitude (except you now can’t leave because there is a zero cancellation rule on budget seats)

    It is not clearly and explicitly explained on their website before making the booking unless you read the fine print, and as I have been using them for the last 15 years I never suspected anything different. It is hidden away, somewhat dishonestly.

    At least some of the budget carriers like Air Asia are very upfront with big bold windows before you pay clearly setting out the extras so if you get caught with them you would have to be completely eyesight impaired.

    I unwittingly recommended Emirates to an older couple who have a limited budget and booked their tickets for them, only to discover this when I tried to select their seats. ZAR400 (South Africa) per leg in the poor South African economy, with that times four per person on a return flight is a good bit of cash because it’s not just a single flight, so the hub stop on the way elsewhere is a leg. And they have saved for this holiday for a long time. And you can’t cancel once you have discovered this so you are screwed. So unless you have the misfortune of ending your trip in Dubai, the trip from origin to destination will at minimum be two legs.

    Emirates should be honest and upfront about their fares, and not simply try to beat the competition by pretend low fares. It’s unethical and immoral.

    Of course nothing will change because of a complaint or two, because that is the nature of large companies managed by call centres where the agents are trained in PR, but people like me can always vote with their wallets and take their business elsewhere. Which I certainly will do from now on. Please do the same.

  41. Absolutely disgusted to discover, after booking ,that Emirates have now sunk to the new level of charging (astronomical amounts) to book seats to sit together.
    We have travelled several times over the years with Emirates and also have seen a marked deterioration in services however this is a new low.
    48 hours beforehand is no use to anyone.They must know that all that will result ,is that they will have planeloads of passengers moving about the aircraft trying to exchange seats,just as you get on a basic budget airline , which is fine if your paying budget prices!
    This decision will most certainly have an influence on any future travel we make.

  42. I am yet another unimpressed member of Emirates loyalty program. Over the last two years there have been noticeable cost cutting regimes implemented:
    * Credit card charges for online booking….already the cheapest way for the airline to accept business.
    * Seat selection charges before 48 hours on lower fares (approx $90 for fare Brisbane to Zurich)
    * No newspapers available at entry to aircraft.
    * Few non alcoholic beverages offered to alleviate dehydration during the long sleeping hours when the aircraft cabin is pretty much in darkness.
    * Seafood meal choice has been removed.
    Every year Brisbane to Europe for eleven years all with Emirates except for one with Singapore Airlines. I think it’s time to vote with my feet …Royal Thai perhaps

  43. Gutted… New Airline low. Etihad will my choice again next time . Newcastle to Manila and extra £320 in seat reservations… The great Airline rip off. The Law should make them state that the seats have charges….

  44. I have flown madrid to dubai for 7 years. Got a saver flight. Had to pay 120€ to book my seats on the A380 both ways. No one advised me but found that this was changed to a 777 a week or so before so my seats did not exist. Emirates had booked my seat change for me. !! I thought the whole point was i booked the seats i wanted and PAID for the privilege. When I complained, they said in their carriage details, they could change the plane, the Times and my seats with no notice to me. What a farce. They just stuck to their policy. The plane was shabby. Service was poor, noisy. I will be looking for other carriers after 7 years.

  45. It’s a fairly significant fee when you consider that the average long haul airfare consists of 4 flights (an extra $100AUD in seats) which can equate to the airfare price difference between Emirates and Qatar for example who do not charge for advance seat selection. It makes Qatar pricing way more favourable when you add the extra hundred onto Emirates.

  46. If this policy does not change I will never fly by Emirates from Boston to Mumbai or from JFK to Mumbai. I will go back to AIR INDIA or any American or European airlines. They are taking advantage from South East Asian community..period. Bad business practice. We should start boycotting fights that charges more for seating.

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