European carriers such as Air France, Norwegian, KLM, etc. charge their economy passengers to select a seat at booking time, resulting in most passengers letting the airline pick for them when they get a boarding pass. You can still change your seat by bothering a gate agent or sometimes on their website, but the selection seems to be limited.

My question is, if you've purchased premium tickets (possibly on a different reservation) will you be more likely to receive a good seat? I can't imagine that it's hard for airlines to rank seat quality, front of plane non-middle seats excluding any limited recline/storage seats.

The reason I ask is because I purchased several one-way tickets within Europe on Norwegian (logged in, using rewards number) and eventually decided to upgrade my long haul flight to premium. The seats I was automatically assigned were pretty mediocre for the flights before I had upgraded my ticket, no middle seats but they were in the middle of the plane which is the worst spot considering Norwegian boards from the front and back. On the flight I checked in for after upgrading, I was immediately assigned a rather good seat, 5th row window. Looking at the seat change options, there's only middle seats and last two rows available for selection so I'm assuming the flight isn't empty. I also didn't do the online check-in as early as I usually do it, perhaps Norwegian already has your seat picked before online check-in opens?

Is this a coincidence or is it Norwegian giving preferential treatment to encourage me to buy premium tickets? Since I only have limited anecdotal evidence I wanted to ask here to see if there's a pattern for Norwegian or other carriers that charge for seat selection.

  • Sorry, it's not clear. You were reassigned a better seat on flight A after upgrading flight B? Or, you just got a good (premium) seat on flight B after upgrading B? – Johns-305 Jan 19 '17 at 17:08
  • @Johns-305 Two completely seperate tickets, one short-haul and one long-haul. I upgraded the long-haul and when I checked in for the short-haul I was given a good seat. Upgrading to premium has seat selection built-in so I could sit wherever I want on the long-haul flight. – Wijagels Jan 19 '17 at 17:11
  • I think you should try to read more about Norwegian's check-in policies. Seat assignments are sometimes assigned at check-in and sometimes already done. I know on Southwest Airlines, the earlier you check in the earlier you board and you chose your seat by sitting in it. Point is there are a lot of things that happen when you check in for flight (on some airlines its not even advisable to check in early) and the only way to know what is actually going on it to look up the actual policies yourself. – Lucy Clara Jan 20 '17 at 2:02

Q: Do air carriers assign seats based on customer spending?

A: Yes...but...some don't, and for those that do, every airline does it differently. I do not know Norwegian specifically does it, but, it wouldn't surprise me at all if the program that assigns seats orders the passengers by CashPoints, fare class plus some 'secret' valuation.

For example, here's how AA order's one of the lists they use: PALL List

To repeat, every carrier has different rules. By now, an experience Norwegian Agent can probably tell you the basics of how they do it. On your next flight, if they're not really busy, just ask.

  • Downvote? Really? No comment? Totally unwarranted, wrong and unhelpful to the community. – Johns-305 Jan 20 '17 at 14:04

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