Air France-KLM will begin collecting a fee for non-status passengers to pre-reserve seats in business class. While an unwelcome and customer-unfriendly move, the policy change is reasonable.
Air France-KLM Will Charge For Advance Seating In Business Class
As flagged by One Mile At A Time, Air France and KLM will begin to charge for advance seat assignments on longhaul routes starting on April 4, 2023 for travel on or After April 13, 2023. Seat assignments will remain free once online check-in opens 30 hours prior to flight departure.
Currently, North American routes are exempt (the joint venture relationship with Delta Air Lines, which sells many Air France-KLM codeshares and does not charge for seat assignments on its own flights, likely complicates this).
Passengers with FlyingBlue elite status (including Silver level) will be exempt from seat assignment fees and can continue to assign seats at no charge at booking.
Air France-KLM Business Class Seat Fees: Reasonable Or Unreasonable?
Let me start by saying this is a customer-unfriendly move and I do not support or celebrate it. Furthermore, I do believe that when charging such a premium for business class, a choice of seat should be available at time of booking…I don’t think it is good business to unbundle this from the fare of a full-service carrier.
However, I do consider the move reasonable. First, because British Airways has done this for years and Lufthansa certainly will once it rolls out its new Allegris business class product. Copying the competition is not how carriers lead or differentiate themselves, but it is reasonable in the context of the competitive landscape Air France-KLM finds itself in.
Second, I believe this is reasonable because this does incentivize elite status in the Flying Blue program and rewards flyers who are loyal to Air France and KLM. Sure, we hate paying for a seat on our 55K business class award ticket, but I can tell you that the additional surcharge will not impact my decision to fly on Air France or KLM. If we are honest, those who can be flexible with their travel continue to find outsized value in booking premium cabin award space via Flying Blue, especially when compared to SkyMiles and other SkyTeam loyalty programs.
Some have compared this to the nickel-and-diming of resort fees, but this is not a valid analogy. Resort fees cannot be turned down: they are obligatory. These seat assignment fees, while annoying, are not mandatory: if you do not want to pay, you can still assign a seat at no charge during check-in.
I will never celebrate an airline unbundling its business class product and seemingly nickel-and-diming its valuable customers, many of whom do not pay with miles but pay thousands of dollars in cash for their tickets. Even so, the move by Air France-KLM to charge for pre-reserving business class seats is reasonable in the context of the current competitive environment. Thankfully for North American flyers, the changes do not impact us yet.
Will this move by Air France & KLM impact your decision to fly them?