Flying again: What Emirates is doing in economy as confidence in flying grows

Lighter passenger loads have allowed Emirates to offer economy class passengers the chance to buy up to three empty adjoining seats.

The airline is also offering discounts of up to 60 per cent on excess baggage.

The seats will only be offered for purchase at the airport check-in counter before departure, and costs range from about $75 to $230 per empty seat depending on the flight sector.

Emirates – one of the few airlines still flying into New Zealand – says it has introduced the seat offer in response to customer feedback. Passengers wanted extra privacy and space while still flying in economy class.

“This includes couples who wish to have the entire row to themselves, parents travelling with in-lap infants, or those who simply want the added assurance of more space while travelling during pandemic times,” the airline says.

Less luggage overall allows Emirates to offer discounts on excess baggage rates, to help customers flying on essential trips take home what they need most.

The discounts range from 35 per cent to 60 per cent off normal rates, depending on sector, and must be booked and pre-paid up to four hours before departure.

The airline has also recently introduced contactless technology to ease customers through Dubai airport as confidence returns to flying, according to an International Air Transport Association (IATA) survey.

The online poll of 4700 fliers in 11 countries found frustration with current travel restrictions, and acceptance of a travel app to manage health credentials for travel.

Those surveyed had flown at least once in the past 11 months and 85 per cent believed that governments should set Covid-19 targets (such as testing capacity or vaccine distribution) to re-open borders

A similar percentage believed that Covid-19 will not disappear, and countries needed to manage its risks while living and traveling normally.

“While there is public support for travel restrictions, it is becoming clear that people are feeling more comfortable with managing the risks of Covid-19,” the association says.

Nearly 40 per cent of respondents reported mental stress and missing an important human moment as a result of travel restrictions. And over a third said restrictions prevent them from doing business normally.

“The top priority of everybody at the moment is staying safe amid the Covid-19 crisis. But it is important that we map a way to being able to reopen borders, manage risks and enable people to get on with their lives,” said IATA director general and chief executive Alexandre de Juniac.

Among other findings, 57 per cent expect to be travelling within two months of the pandemic being contained, 81 per centbelieve they will be more likely to travel once they are vaccinated and 84 per cent said they will not travel if there is a chance of quarantine at their destination.

There are still indications that the pick-up in business travel will take time, with 62 per cent saying they are likely to travel less for business even after the virus is contained.

“People want to get back to travel, but quarantine is the showstopper,” said de Juniac. “As testing capacity and technology improves and the vaccinated population grows, the conditions for removing quarantine measures are being created.”

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