While KLM and Malaysia Airlines are offering passengers options to pick their seatmates through social network profiles, AirAsia X, in a contrarian move, is giving economy passengers the chance to guarantee that they will sit alone, stretched out across three seats.
The low cost carrier, with routes across Asia, Australia and Europe, introduced an Empty Seat Option in January in partnership with Optiontown, a Massachusetts-based revenue management specialist.
Obviously, there is a time for networking with a fellow passenger you find through their LinkedIn or Facebook profiles, and there is a time for flying solo in comfort.
The airline says it is the first carrier in Asia Pacific to offer economy passengers the option to reserve all three seats.
And with ESo, as it is known, you can alternately just pay for the seat next to you if you want to stretch out a bit, but don't need the third seat.
On AirAsia X's China, Japan and Korea routes, passengers can secure one empty seat for MYR 30 (nearly $10 or Euro 7.50) and two empty seats for MYR 40 (about $13 or Euro 10).
The price for these ancillary services rises for Australia, New Zealand and Iran routes, where they go for MYR 40 for one empty seat and MYR 50 for two.
Booked passengers can sign into AirAsia.com, and select Optiontown and then Empty Seat Option. After entering their flight details, passengers pay an ESo sign-up fee of MYR 3 and then the fee for the empty seat(s), with the amount dependent on the route.
Passengers get emailed a notification about the availability of empty seats 4 to 72 hours before the flight, and they get a refund if there are none available.
There are about 10 airlines using various services from Optiontown, with most, including AirAsia X, rolling out Optiontown's Upgrade Travel Option, enabling passengers to upgrade to premium flatbed seats.
Optiontown's airline partners include AirAsia X, SAS, Arik, airBaltic, Malev, Spanair, Blue 1 and Aeromexico.
All of these airlines are hopping on the ancillary revenue bandwagon.
"The ESo is not our main stream of revenue, but it's part of our ancillary product offerings," says AirAsia X spokesperson Sherliza Zaharudin. "Guests are given an option to purchase the Optiontown offerings, which in turn helps the airline in filling up the plane when flights are not full."
AirAsia X says since introducing the Upgrade Travel Option, its premium load factor has increased by more than 20% and yield from upgraded passengers has jumped more than 60%. The UTo service is dynamically priced, the airline says.
It looks like their is some money in nonsocial travel.