German airline Lufthansa is set to follow in the footsteps of British Airways by charging passengers a fee if they wish to book a specific seat in advance.
Although Lufthansa has yet to make an official announcement, Business Traveller can reveal that passengers flying both short- and medium-haul routes will soon be paying an advance seat reservation (ASR) fee should they wish to pre-reserve their favourite seat.
At the present time there are no plans to introduce an ASR charge for long-haul flights. And the fee itself is expected to be introduced later this year.
Not long ago, BA became perhaps the first big carrier to introduce such a fee. BA's move aroused much controversy among its passengers, including those who contribute to our forum.
It is understood that Lufthansa will levy ASR fees of five euros and 15 euros for flights over short- and medium-haul routes. As with BA, there will be exemptions.
Lufthansa will not levy the ASR fee to HON Circle members, Senator cardholders and those economy passengers booking the higher fare tariffs. It means that these valued passengers can block off their favourite seat in advance; this wasn't possible before.
But Lufthansa will levy the fee to passengers booking the cheaper tariff tiers. The airline says that although a fee is payable (for passengers booking this fare category) they can now pre-select a seat which could not be done before.
Ancillary fees like ASR are increasingly necessary for airlines to survive. Aviation specialist Ruediger Kiani-Kress, of Germany's business weekly Wirtschaftswoche, notes: "Airlines are suffering more than any other industry under the weak global economy. Given the intense competition and the easy price comparisons through internet portals, the airlines' normal ticket revenue can hardly increase. So they try to get money through higher fees."
For more information on ancillary fees, refer to the "Strings Attached" feature in the July/August issue of Business Traveller.