Scandinavian Airlines Adds Seat Fees In Business Class

Scandinavian Airlines Adds Seat Fees In Business Class

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Here’s a trend that I don’t like to see — Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has become the latest airline to add seat assignment fees for premium passengers.

Scandinavian Airlines expands advance seat reservation fees

Scandinavian Airlines has long charged for advance seat assignments in economy, but has now expanded that practice to premium passengers. Specifically, the airline now charges seat assignment fees for SAS Business and SAS Plus passengers.

For context, SAS Business is the carrier’s long haul business class product, while SAS Plus is both the carrier’s long haul premium economy product and short haul premium product (as SAS doesn’t have business class on short haul flights).

SAS Business now has seat assignment fees

Here are some more of the details about this new policy:

  • It applies for bookings as of October 18, 2023, and for travel as of October 23, 2023
  • The only SAS Plus passengers who aren’t subjected to seat assignment fees are those on wholly domestic flights within one of the Nordic countries
  • EuroBonus Gold, Diamond, and Pandion members are exempt from these fees, though elite members on partner airlines aren’t exempt
  • 30 hours before departure check-in opens, at which point you can choose a seat at no cost
SAS Plus now has seat assignment fees

The cost to assign a seat varies based on the exact flight, aircraft, type of seat, etc. For example, for a Washington to Copenhagen flight on an Airbus A321LR, I see a standard business class seat going for $90, and a preferred business class seat going for $120.

Scandinavian Airlines seat assignment fees

My take on this policy change from Scandinavian Airlines

“I love paying extra for seat assignments in business class”… said no one ever. In fairness, this might divide people more than you’d think:

  • Those who can continue to select seats in business class for free might like these changes, as they’ll have access to more seat choices closer to departure
  • Those who now have to pay for seat assignments in business class will uniformly not be in favor of this

Keep in mind that Scandinavian Airlines is still in bankruptcy protection, and is trying to increase revenue while cutting costs (I mean, who doesn’t want to do that?). On top of that, Air France-KLM is in the process of investing in the airline, which would see SAS leave Star Alliance and join SkyTeam.

At this point seat assignment fees in business class on European airlines are becoming the norm rather than the exception. British Airways has been doing this for years, and Air France-KLM recently introduced these as well. Furthermore, with Lufthansa introducing its new Allegris business class, there will be seven different kinds of seating options, and you can bet there will be different price points for each kind of seat. SWISS will be introducing its own version of the product as well.

So with competitors doing this, I imagine Scandinavian Airlines assumes it’s an opportunity to generate extra revenue, and people aren’t going to not book with the airline because of this policy. The reality is that a vast majority of airlines invest in their premium products in some areas, and then try to cut costs and increase revenue in other areas. This is a pretty clear example of that.

Does it leave a bad taste in a customer’s mouth to be asked to shell out for a seat assignment on a $5K ticket? Of course. But are you going to change the airline that you book because of it? Probably not…

Air France recently made a similar policy change

Bottom line

Scandinavian Airlines is the latest airline to add seat assignment fees for premium passengers. The airline now charges to assign seats in advance on all business class and premium economy fares, with the exception of SAS Plus domestic fares.

For most of us this is a negative change, though unfortunately it’s also not surprising, given the general industry trend.

What do you make of SAS adding seat assignment fees?

Conversations (37)
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  1. Tommy Knockers Guest

    Hi SAS. I would like to extend both of my middle fingers in your general direction. And yes - that includes the horse you rode in on.

    1. Inger Guest

      I bought 2 fully refundable J class tickets plus seats for $460 on SAS. Had to cancel for refund due to change of itinerary and was told the seat charges are not refundable. I was told by 1 customer service employee it’s all refundable but by 2 other absolutely not. This just can’t be right.

  2. Joe Gorman Guest

    The most annoying thing about this is that the airline is charging for a service that costs them nothing to provide. The IT system to let passengers pick seats in advance of course costs something, but the marginal cost of use per passenger is zero. Other choices I might make (such as choosing a business class seat) have direct costs, so it's fair to have to pay. Some argue that not everyone feels the need...

    The most annoying thing about this is that the airline is charging for a service that costs them nothing to provide. The IT system to let passengers pick seats in advance of course costs something, but the marginal cost of use per passenger is zero. Other choices I might make (such as choosing a business class seat) have direct costs, so it's fair to have to pay. Some argue that not everyone feels the need to book seats in advance so it's fair that those who do should pay. But not everyone needs to use the toilet either, on short-haul at least. Should that be charged per flight? per visit? or per minute?

  3. Terri Genovese Guest

    Not surprising for an airline that charges for a cup of water….

  4. AC Guest

    So no fee if you wait until within 30 hours before the flight to pick a seat. If traveling with someone maybe want to reserve 2 next to (or close to) each other but personally this doesn’t bother me. If flying in international J all are pods so basically the same seat. Yes you may prefer window but I wouldn’t pay for it. I’d just wait until within 30 hours and pick what is left.

    Frankly overreaction by people. Easy to avoid the fee with minimal impact.

    1. henare Diamond

      This is how I feel. If I can get a seat that I like when selections open up then I might bite, but otherwise I'm glad to wait.

  5. iamhere Guest

    People will probably look at the total price inclusive of fees. This is also a good use of the airline credits that many credit cards offer. However, I'm not sure why they don't just raise their prices by $50-$100. People would be less turned off and probably not notice.

  6. BenjaminGuttery Diamond

    Ben, I wish You would "call out" these practices more than You do. You seem like a very logical and analytical person. But You also have a huge platform.

  7. Mick Guest

    Meh most people buying the $5k seats are doing it for work and the company will pay the 2% premium without anyone caring .

    Def for points passengers (ie the back door sale of 20% of these seats) the premium is higher (say ~$1k trans Atlantic cost) then 10% premium. That’s going to go into the matrix of who you choose. But we’re often inelastic on airline choices last minute so May have to...

    Meh most people buying the $5k seats are doing it for work and the company will pay the 2% premium without anyone caring .

    Def for points passengers (ie the back door sale of 20% of these seats) the premium is higher (say ~$1k trans Atlantic cost) then 10% premium. That’s going to go into the matrix of who you choose. But we’re often inelastic on airline choices last minute so May have to suck it up. Or just add it to the cost of flying sas, Lh etc and make a decision accordingly (prob still fly sas and monitor the sest map to book a seat or wait until 30hrs). I’m not too fussed. Sure it’s annoying…

    1. Aided Guest

      European airlines simply can't compete anymore. They aren't on my fly list. Excess fees, rude service, substandard food - why bother.

      Asian and middle eastern airlines are only on my fly list.

      Don't bother to even look at any US airlines.

    2. Scudder Diamond

      Aided, In that case, who do you fly for Transatlantic? Surely the inconvenience of a double connection for one of the few 5th freedom flights isnt worth the service improvement.

  8. Always Flying Somewhere Guest

    This is no longer a novelty. Finnair has been doing this for at least a year.

    1. Ms. Yvonne Guest

      True—but the difference here seems to be that, on SAS, this is the default fare, if I am understanding the policy correctly. With Finnair, I think of the “business light” fare to be more like “basic economy”—you know, an opt out fare when you don’t have any luggage to check in and you don’t care about seat assignment.

  9. Rob Guest

    If you’re traveling with someone this means youll both have to pay the fee to sit together.

    1. Samo Guest

      Not really. There's usually more than enough seats together when OLCI opens.

      Furthermore I'd imagine that SK is using some kind of a theoretical seating system, like most other airlines, so there will be some seat blocking for couples anyway. It's never been problem when I flew in economy and it's gonna be even less of a problem in business where duo seats aren't exactly popular by most pax.

    2. Ms. Yvonne Guest

      That’s right…and I have a feeling we will be seeing more of those situations where a woman approaches you saying, “Excuse me, the airline made a mistake and separated my husband and me. Can you switch seats with us so we can sit closer to each other?”

      Of course, in reality, what she should have said is that “Excuse me, my husband and I are too cheap to pay to book seats in advance,...

      That’s right…and I have a feeling we will be seeing more of those situations where a woman approaches you saying, “Excuse me, the airline made a mistake and separated my husband and me. Can you switch seats with us so we can sit closer to each other?”

      Of course, in reality, what she should have said is that “Excuse me, my husband and I are too cheap to pay to book seats in advance, so we are seated in separate areas. Can you give me your seat—you know, the seat you paid $120 to reserve, so my husband and I can be closer…for free?”

  10. Mark Guest

    I'm pricing SFO/PAR/FCO for Spring in Premium Economy, and SAS is far less expensive than the others , so I'll have no problem paying it. Kind of disappointing though....

  11. mike Guest

    so tickets purchased before October 18 are still exempt?

    1. John M Guest

      The is no fee if you picked seats when you booked.

  12. stogieguy7 Diamond

    After shelling out hundreds extra for a business class seat, adding a fee for seat selection is the ultimate nickel and dime BS that an airline can pull. SAS should be better than this, but they're not. Nor are they on my list of airlines to fly on a TA itinerary.

    1. John M Guest

      I am glad I booked my business class flights to CPH a couple of weeks ago. They were a good deal then and now are an even better deal.

    2. Samo Guest

      But the thing is that not everyone can have best seats. What free seat selection does is that those who book early get the best seats, while does who book at last minute, paying significantly higher fares end up with the leftovers. This isn't right either. That's why BA had paid seat selection since decades ago, long before nickel and diming and unbundling became a thing in the industry.

  13. Morgan Diamond

    Yeah as others have said Ben, I think it would potentially mean you don't fly them (or at least don't fly them again). I think if you flew them it would definitely start your flight off on the wrong foot as you have already got a bad taste in your mouth before even stepping foot on the plane (or in the airport) and then this contributes to how you perceive some of the inflight aspects (negatively as you are not happy or neutral to start with).

  14. W Smolka Guest

    I hope that with SAS joining with Air France / KLM this policy may not last.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ W Smolka -- I'd imagine if anything it would be the opposite, no? Air France and KLM also recently added seat assignment fees in premium cabins.

  15. Ben Holz Guest

    Like someone said previously, if there's another airline offering the same route (if nonstop) or similar (if you're connecting with SAS via CPH/ARN/OSL), then I would most certainly reconsider it and try to avoid SAS and choose an airline that allows me to pick my seat freely. I presume this will be especially the case for those of us whose travel is paid by our companies but have the flexibility of choosing airlines/flights with a certain degree of freedom.

    1. tda1986 Diamond

      Especially if corporate policies don't reimburse (or make you jump through hoops to get reimbursement) for "optional" charges like seat assignments.

    2. Ben Holz Guest

      @tda1986 - exactly

      @Ben Schlappig - I wasn't aware of this AFKL policy... upon doing a dummy booking (MUC-AMS-JFK-CDG-MUC) on a random date at the lowest J fare there (Standard, is there a lower fare?), I was able to choose a seat on all legs at no additional cost.

      As for the LH comparison, I completely agree, but moves like these might push away potential customers. A friend of mine (also on corporate travel)...

      @tda1986 - exactly

      @Ben Schlappig - I wasn't aware of this AFKL policy... upon doing a dummy booking (MUC-AMS-JFK-CDG-MUC) on a random date at the lowest J fare there (Standard, is there a lower fare?), I was able to choose a seat on all legs at no additional cost.

      As for the LH comparison, I completely agree, but moves like these might push away potential customers. A friend of mine (also on corporate travel) would often opt fly via CPH or LIS with SK/TP in order to avoid LH (despite the longer itinerary) while still being able to accumulate miles that compliment those from his domestic/regional travel with LH. I'm sure he's not the only LH-captive that avoids them when possible :) Whether or not this is enough for him and others to stop using SK to connect I don't know, but moves like these I'm pretty certain will restrain their growth in corporate customers (which at the end of the day make up a significant portion of those that bring in that much-desired business class revenue/profit).

    3. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Ben Holz -- Totally fair, though what other airlines could you really fly? Air France, British Airways, and KLM, all have seat assignment fees. Lufthansa's current business class hard product really isn't competitive (I'd rather book an SAS flight and just select a seat at check-in). I guess you could fly US airlines, but they also don't have much service to Northern Europe. Like I said, I don't like this policy, but I think SAS will get away with it.

  16. George Guest

    Scratch SAS from my list of airlines for trans Atlantic travel.

  17. Andy 11235 Guest

    You know, younger me would have said that charging for seat assignment on already-expensive tickets is insane. Now, I have come to realize that there is so little effective competition on flights to Europe that it isn't so much insanity as a recognition of the bargaining power airlines have.

    1. Steven Guest

      And there are certainly better options than SAS - if prices are the same……

  18. Julia Guest

    "But are you going to change the airline that you book because of it? Probably not…"

    You might if there is another airline operating on the same route with similar quality and price that doesn't charge for stuff like this...

  19. Steven E Guest

    No different from Qatar - still waiting for the seat fees from 4 non qsuite aircraft that I paid for and for 3 people on 4 legs - radio silence

  20. Joseph Sutherland Guest

    Don’t think I’ll change airlines because of this money grab? Watch me! I’ve refused to fly BA for years because of this.

    1. Nb Guest

      Ooooh and they are so damaged because of your decision lol

  21. Jules0760 New Member

    As an airline that has consistently made exceedingly high losses year on year I am surprised they are still in business but a lot of routes they operate there is no competition so they probably believe they can get away with it.Will have to wait and see if that is the case in the long term future

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Joseph Sutherland Guest

Don’t think I’ll change airlines because of this money grab? Watch me! I’ve refused to fly BA for years because of this.

4
iamhere Guest

People will probably look at the total price inclusive of fees. This is also a good use of the airline credits that many credit cards offer. However, I'm not sure why they don't just raise their prices by $50-$100. People would be less turned off and probably not notice.

2
stogieguy7 Diamond

After shelling out hundreds extra for a business class seat, adding a fee for seat selection is the ultimate nickel and dime BS that an airline can pull. SAS should be better than this, but they're not. Nor are they on my list of airlines to fly on a TA itinerary.

2
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