Virgin Australia has confirmed it has no plans to charge passengers for the extra legroom seats in the front row of economy on its Boeing 737-800 aircraft.
While charging an additional fee for exit row seats has become common practice, and with several US airlines now applying the same formula to the bulkhead 'economy plus' seats located at the front of the economy cabin, a Virgin Australia spokeswoman told Australian Business Traveller “we currently have no plans to charge guests for sitting in the first row”.
That first row of Virgin's Boeing 737-800 aircraft (row 3, shown above) is a plum pick for frequent flyers due to the bonus legroom available between the seat and the divider separating economy from business class.
US airlines are now charging for that coveted legroom, as well as being among the first to leave the plane.
For example, Virgin America calls it Main Cabin Select – to differentiate from the economy Main Cabin class – and charges US$204 for a flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles (which is equivalent in flying time to Sydney-Melbourne) against a standard refundable economy ticket of US$188.
Cost-extra 'instant upgrades' from a Main Cabin booking to to Main Cabin Select are also available during online checkin.
In addition to 38 inches of legroom instead of the 32 inches in standard economy seating, Virgin America sweetens the deal with extras such as one free checked bag, priority check-in and boarding, dedicated carry-on bin space and free food, drink and in-flight entertainment.
However, rather than succumb to the 'economy plus' temptation of pocketing extra revenue, Virgin Australia will continue to reserve the first two rows of economy for Platinum and Gold members of its Velocity frequent flyer program.
If none of those top-tier travellers happen to be on the flight, Velocity Silver members get the nod with seat reassignment at boarding, the airline spokesperson explains.