Kuwait’s Jazeera Airways has become one of the first airlines to allow passengers to book the middle seat next to them in addition to their own seat in a move designed to increase both confidence and revenues.
The price of the additional seat excludes taxes with discounts of up to 40% off a regular ticket price.
Even short-haul operators are still struggling to fill narrow-body aircraft so Jazeera’s ‘Duo Seat’ initiative could help it to increase turnover while load factors remain low.
Jazeera said that the new offering will give customers that buy into ‘Duo Seat’ more comfort and security from potential Covid-19 infections.
Most airlines have spoken out against proposals by some aviation regulators to force operators to keep the middle seat free to ensure social distancing on-board and so far no new rules have been brought in.
Aviation experts and industry representatives say that aircraft cabins are extremely hygienic environments thanks to HEPA filters and that masks and gloves are enough to keep passengers and crew safe from infection.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said that keeping middle seats free on planes would incur unnecessary costs for airlines and cause the average air fare in the Middle East to rise by 43% to $259.
Jazeera Airways’ CEO, Rohit Ramachandran, told AVB last month that if every passenger wears a mask and a set of gloves “you are far more protected [on an aircraft] than you are in a supermarket”. “Flying remains safer from potential infection point of view than walking down the street,” he said.
Nevertheless, many passengers are nervous about catching Covid-19 on-board aircraft and while load factors remain low for the foreseeable future as air travel begins its recovery from the pandemic, it makes sense for privately owned low-cost carriers to introduce new ancillary revenue streams.
In a wealthy country like Kuwait, which has the second highest GDP per capita in the Gulf, it is likely that some passengers will purchase the seat next to them simply for comfort reasons – especially given that Jazeera only operates A320 narrow-bodies.
Jazeera said in a statement that it “has taken every safety and precautionary measure on its aircraft and Terminal 5 to ensure passengers fly safely”. Passengers are mandated to wear face masks and gloves at all times throughout their journey and social distancing is in operation throughout Jazeera Terminal 5.