Air NZ adds seat and bag charges

MICHELLE COOKE
Last updated 15:06 20/11/2012

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Air New Zealand is introducing costs for seat selection and excess baggage, just as its rival Jetstar does.

The airline announced that passengers would have to pay to select a preferred, exit row or bassinet seat, but that 70 per cent of customers would still be able to select a seat for free - although there was no guarantee they would be allocated it.

New charges would also be introduced for excess baggage on domestic and international flights, conditions which Jetstar already imposes.

The new costs, which range from $5 for a standard seat on a domestic flight to $75 for an exit row seat on a long-haul international flight, would come into effect from Thursday.

Seat selection was now available for those who didn't previously have access to it, such as those travelling on a seat only, seat+bag and domestic grabaseat flight, an AirNZ spokeswoman said.

Extra baggage is not on a per kilogram basis, but rather per bag. An extra bag will cost $30 for a domestic flight and $155 for a flight to London if you pay for it ahead of check-in.

Consumer New Zealand chief executive Sue Chetwin saw the move as a way for the airline to attract money it was losing through the discount fares it has been offering.

"They seem to be offering all these discount fares but they still need to make some money, so they're introducing some things where you can pay for more," she said.

"I guess it's just another way of extracting money from people who are flying."

It was a competitive environment for airlines, which were struggling in these economic times but all the extra costs being added to a fare seemed a "bit petty", Chetwin said.

The new costs were a way of giving customers more choice, an Air New Zealand spokeswoman said.

"No existing seating entitlements are being taken away - customers who currently get free advanced seat select will continue to get it," she said.

"From a baggage perspective, this gives customers the opportunity to plan ahead a pre-pay for extra bags at a lower rate than they would pay at check-in."

While the airline said Gold, Gold Elite and Koru club members would not be disadvantaged, there would be some "location adjustments". Those members would also have the opportunity to access a paid seat free of charge within 48 hours of their flight's departure.

Gold Elite member Michael O'Brien said the mention of ''location adjustments'' was vague and he was interested in finding out what it exactly meant.

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As a Gold Elite member he has had, until now, the choice of any seat on the plane, including the front rows, which usually had more leg room and the advantage of disembarking first.

"I see this as a huge advantage," O'Brien said. "I know that I can be out of the plane, in a taxi and on the way to my meeting even before some people get out of the plane."  He wasn't sure if he would ever pay to select a seat ahead of a flight.

'Brien said he was happy to fly AirNZ as it was "fairly generous for a low-cost airline".

"They still provide tea, coffee, water, alcohol - on the business-run flights - and snacks all for free," he said.

"I flew Air Canada a couple of weeks ago and they charge for absolutely everything - biscuits, sandwiches, pizzas and even headsets."

- Stuff

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