Singapore Airlines (SIA) today announced its intention to charge economy class passengers a fee to reserve a seat in advance.

The new charges take effect from January 20, 2018.

In the blurb on its website, SIA says that “we will be offering new fare types to better suit your travel needs.”

Fans of SIA will lament this decision.

Why? Because they choose SIA as it’s one of the few airlines still old-fashioned enough to provide many services (for which its rivals now levy a fee) free of charge.

Right now all SIA economy class passengers, regardless of ticket type or fare paid, are entitled to reserve a seat free of charge.

For anyone booking online with this a simple process. Customers are automatically guided to the seating plan for all flights on the itinerary and this is displayed at the time of booking.

But from January 20 economy passengers buying the cheapest or “Lite” fares will have to pay a fee starting from US$5 per sector.

Note the words “from” and “per sector.”

The $5 fee will obviously apply to short regional flights like say from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur or Penang.

But from Europe, almost all SIA flights operate non-stop to Singapore so travellers from here can expect to pay considerably more.

And the price is per sector. So travellers taking SIA to destinations beyond Singapore, like Australasia, Malaysia or Vietnam, will pay the sector fees four times over when making a round-trip.

However all is not lost. Not everyone will be liable to pay these new fees.

Exceptions include:

  • Those travellers buying the more expensive economy Standard or Flexi tickets
  • Travellers who check-in online less than 48 hours before departure
  • Charges are waived for some loyalty club members
  • Families with children under 12 years of age

There may also be additional charges for extra legroom seats and for accommodation towards the front of the cabin.

I say “may” because the new rules and regulations are complex and must be a nightmare for hard-pressed airport staff to unravel.

Note that these new charges do not apply before January 20.  The new rules affect only those tickets issued on or after January 20.

As we have previously reported SIA will become more business-like in future to boost revenue and therefore profitability.

Its new A380s (the first of which has just been delivered) is “densified” to raise the seat count, while its forthcoming fleet of B777-9s will almost certainly be equipped with ten-abreast economy class seating compared with today’s more spacious nine-across configuration.

One wonders when SIA will follow the trend towards HBO (hand baggage only) fares within Asia. Branding its lowest economy fares as “Lite” suggests this will happen sooner rather than later.