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Pay extra for unassigned seats

Hello to all travel vets out there,
Have a question about airline seats.So back in January we started shopping for tickets to Greece, finally purchasing it through Priceline without assigned seating, and I have to mention that we are newbies to international air travel.Booking is for Sept.9 from Seattle ,layover in Toronto and overnight to Athens. Fast forward , we tried to get seats assigned , found out that it would be additional 250-300 for standard seats .We tried through Priceline , did not get anywhere, and airline (AirCanada) telling us that the only way to get free seats is 24 hrs before departure what ever is left, no guarantee for 2 of us seating together .Is this common practice for international flights to charge extra for seats or it depends on the airline. Is there anything we can do at this point. Or just pay for seats on longer flights and take a chance on a connecting flights.Really ticks me off that there was no mention of extra fees on Priceline web when we booked, lesson learned.
Thanks for any advice

Posted by
1397 posts

Air Canada gives you the opportunity to pay a relatively small fee for seat selection at time of booking. If you don't take advantage of that option Air Canada is not going to pass on an opportunity to charge a bigger fee later on. This is a reality of flying these days. I just read Air Canada earned a billion dollars in the last year for extra fees. . I guess this is a lesson on using Priceline.

Strategy for you now.
I would suggest you wait until you can get your boarding pass 24 hours before flight time. You can choose seats then. If you can't get seats together Its probably a good idea to book aisle and window seats if you can.

You still have the option of going to the service desk at the airport gate and ask them if they can rearrange the seating.

Last hope, on several occasions we have ended up in different parts of the aircraft and every time we have asked nearby single passengers if they would be willing to switch seats. We have been remarkably successful getting other passengers to change seats, particularly if you are willing to give up an aisle or a window for a middle seat.

We will be taking the same flights from the west coast tomorrow. Hope you enjoy Greece.

Posted by
2768 posts

It is common to have to pay for seat assignments. Not on all airlines, but it's certainly not rare. Generally the advice is to wait until the 24 hours - a majority of people do, so there will be a decent selection. However, I always pay for it because I am picky about seating and I travel with kids who I don't want sitting away from me. Plus on my last air canada flight I was not allowed to check in online (something about my first flight being on Aegean, even though I booked through air canada's own website). So I checked in at the airport, with my pre-paid seat selection and all was well. If, however, I had waited I wouldn't have been able to select them at 24 hours, but when I got to the airport - 2 hours ahead. I imagine at 2 hours there would not be decent seats together available!

As far as I know there is nothing you can do now. You can pay or wait. If you can pay for seating on the long flights and not pay on the short ones, that may be a good option. Worst case is you are stuck in a middle seat separate from your travel partners, and that's fine on a 2 hour hop but less pleasant on a 9 hour one.

Also, since this is the Greece section and you are flying Air Canada - as far as I know Aegean Air (a code share with Air Canada) does not offer seat assignments ahead of time, except for premium seats. So if any of your flights are on Aegean, then there is no need to pay for seat selection there.

Posted by
1294 posts

This is becoming more common. (although $250-300 is ridiculous). I refuse to pay extra for seats. We check in right at the 24 hour mark and choose the best seats available. So far, we have not had any trouble getting what we need. (2 aisle seats), but you never know. If we have to sit apart or in the middle, we will just "suck it up". As for priceline, whenever using a third party site, go to the actual airline site and view their fees. (baggage, seat assignment, etc) I have used Travelocity and they always have a direct link to the fees of the airlines you are thinking of booking. I do know Priceline does a "blind" purchase, which can make that hard. The problem is that airline fees vary so much and what can look like a real deal, will actually have high fees that bring it up to the other tickets.

Posted by
6788 posts

Yes, it's now common practice to stick it to customers for a long list of things that we all once took for granted. Depends on many factors, including the airline you fly on, who you buy the ticket through, and exactly what kind of a ticket you're buying.

If you only shop with a single criteria - the absolute lowest possible price - to the exclusion of any other consideration....well, enjoy that low price, because there's a good chance you won't be enjoying much else about the flight.

The experience you have while flying from one side of the world to the opposite involves a thousand small choices. The price you pay is just one factor among many others. Personally, I would never, ever book a flight that was going to subject me to 24 hours of utter misery even if the ticket was free or if they even paid me. But consumers have consistently told the airlines and others in the travel industry that they care about one thing, and only one thing: low, low, low, low prices. So it should not come as a shock that the travel industry has responded by giving consumers exactly that - a low "price", and if you want anything else (being able to choose your seat, enough room for your feet, less than 4 connections, service, etc., etc.) then those things may be extra - or not available at all on that bargain $49 ticket.

Many of us do not use outfits like Priceline for a variety of reasons, preferring to book directly with the airlines (and doing lots of research before booking so we know exactly what we are getting, and shopping with other criteria in the mix - comfort, schedule, etc.). Other folks love Priceline and other discounters. I look at it just like buying a car: if the only thing you look at is the price...that $49 clunker may or may not be a bargain.

As to your current conundrum, all you can do is ask the guys who sold you the ticket (Priceline) and the guys who run the airline (Air Canada).

Your flight is September 9 - less than 2 weeks out. Your options are going to be limited. These kinds of details (like whether or not you can choose a seat at all or if you're just stuck where they want to put you) are best determined well in advance (certainly before paying for the ticket). Like all travel, air travel is greatly enhanced by advance planning, and those who do not plan ahead have to deal with things as they are, not as they could have been. At the last minute, you may find many things are very constrained or simply pre-determined. You can and should try to snag a decent seat at check-in if you can (maybe you'll get lucky), but lower your expectations and learn lessons for next time (and keep telling yourself how much money you saved on that ticket...).

Posted by
2793 posts

Do take solace in this. Our experience has been that the airline computers that assign seats at check in do if at all possible seat passengers on the same ticket next to each other. So as soon as online check-in opens, get online and do so. And when checking in this early, you should have the ability to move to any more desirable seats that you wish if they have not yet been assigned.

Posted by
2595 posts

And lots of times you can get it worked out at the airport. My husband and I did not buy tickets together because I was going earlier than he. We had reserved seats next to each other though because I bought tickets within minutes of each other. There was then a plane change in Athens and we lost our seats next to each other because we were not on the same ticket. We were able to get seats together by talking to them at the airport.


Posted by
1178 posts

I bought tickets for a flight from Boston to Athens with American Airlines and the price included pick of seats in economy.

I've never had to pay extra for tickets for any of my flights to Greece and that includes Delta, Air France and Lufthansa and I've been flying every year since 2010.

In addition it may have been better to book directly with the airlines rather than a third-party website. You usually will get better service, especially if any problems come up since a third-party site is more than likely unable to help which appears to be what happened with Priceline.

I also agree with some of the posters that it is vitally important to do as much research as possible, check websites of various airlines to see what their prices are and don't buy something based solely on price, which I understand is important, but also what you are getting for the price.

I would also highly recommend to book directly with an airlines rather than a third-party, some of them may be reputable, but many others are fly-by-night that no one has ever heard of resulting in not knowing what you are getting and by the time you click OK you've found out the you can't pick a seat, you can't get help from them and you are on your own.

Posted by
8638 posts

That's one of the problems with using third party sites and letting them default to list itineraries by you the lowest airfares. You can't always see additional baggage fees or other restrictions, when they are comparing itineraries only on the price. The airline sites (at least the ones I've used in the last few years) will show you the different levels of service and fares available for each flight.

Posted by
3260 posts

Most of the time on BA we have waited for the 24 check in to get our seats. We have never had an issue sitting next to each other...or diagonally (once) next to each other. Please don't worry about it as most likely you will be fine. Next time you know if you want to pay for seats. However, I suggest you join the airlines frequent flier club so you take priority over others. Actually, you should always join your airline's frequent flier club.

Posted by
11497 posts

Can you bring up your flight(s) and seat maps to see how full the plane is. This will give you some idea what choices you may have available.

At this point your choices are either pay the fee or be ready at the 24 hr mark to check in and select seats

The "booking conditions' on the Priceline site is a bit vague, but does provide wording that further investigation is merited

Booking Conditions

Once confirmed, airline change penalties and restrictions apply. Most tickets are non-refundable. See your airline’s full fare rules.
Airline tickets are non-transferrable. Name changes or adjustments are not allowed once purchased.
Meal and seat preferences are not guaranteed. Fares are not guaranteed until purchase.
Airfares and flight availability are not guaranteed until purchased.
You will be issued Electronic tickets. Remember to bring a valid government-issued photo ID with you to check-in.
Federal law forbids the carriage of hazardous materials such as aerosols, fireworks, and flammable liquids aboard aircraft in your luggage or on your person. For full details on prohibited materials contact your airline or visit the FAA webs

Posted by
585 posts

Oh dear, you are flying with Air Canada Rouge, our national airline’s so-called budget airline. To me not so much budget prices as budget service. This means you will be shoe-horned into a seat with a 30” seat pitch and about 17” in width. Hopefully whoever is on front of you will not recline their seat. When I flew them last year there was no entertainment unless you downloaded on to a tablet through the Air Canada website, or rent an IPad on board for $10 (CDN). I have taken this flight a number of times and have either paid for the quite comfortable Rouge Plus, or paid for the additional leg room premium seats at the front of economy class. Strongly recommend you select your seat now and pay for either the premium seats - they sell out quickly; or at least aisle seats. I get claustrophobic just thinking about a middle or window seat on this flight!

It’s long haul from Seattle - as I know, I travel from Vancouver Island - and it’s to your benefit to be comfortable as possible on your flight and if it means paying Rouge’s atrocious premium to choose your seat, go for it.

Posted by
5837 posts

I hope you got "good" (cheap) fares. At this point, your best bet is to wait until 24 hours before departure to check in and select seats on-line.

Adam Smith's invisiable hand is at work. With deregualtion we are buying cheap air travel options for less services, narrow close pitch seats and not being able to pre-select seats without an add-on fee. And it seems every flight is close to full. Fortuantely the toilets are still free.