Qantas trialling Neighbour Free seats on Singapore and other international routes

Qantas Economy passengers travelling from Singapore to Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth can now pay a A$100 fee for a better shot at an empty seat next to them.

While flying in Economy Class is never going to be a painless experience, having an empty seat next to you can make a world of difference- one that passengers are willing to pay for.

Realising this, Qantas launched a “Neighbour Free” product back in September 2022 which, as the name suggests, allows passengers to purchase a vacant seat next to them. This was initially trailed on six domestic routes, before being expanded to cover the majority of the Qantas domestic network.

Qantas is now expanding the trial to selected international routes, including flights from Singapore to Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth.

Qantas Neighbour Free trial routes

From 18 October 2023, Neighbour Free seating will be offered to Economy Class customers on the following routes:

✈️ Neighbour Free Trial Routes
  • Singapore ⇆  Brisbane
  • Singapore ⇆  Melbourne
  • Singapore ⇆  Perth
  • Brisbane ⇆  Auckland
  • Brisbane ⇆  Christchurch
  • Brisbane ⇆  Los Angeles
  • Brisbane ⇆  Wellington (from 29 Oct 23)
  • Melbourne ⇆  Auckland
  • Melbourne ⇆  Christchurch
  • Melbourne ⇆  Dallas
  • Melbourne ⇆  Los Angeles
  • Melbourne ⇆  Wellington
  • Sydney ⇆  Auckland
  • Sydney ⇆  Christchurch
  • Sydney ⇆  Dallas
  • Sydney ⇆  Honolulu
  • Sydney ⇆  Los Angeles
  • Sydney ⇆  San Francisco
  • Sydney ⇆  Wellington

Qantas has shared that Neighbour Free will start from A$45 (~S$39) on trans-Tasman flights, A$100 (~S$87) between Australia and Singapore, and A$225 (~S$196) between Australia and America.

How Neighbour Free works

Economy Class customers booked on a flight with spare capacity will be emailed 48 hours before departure with the option of selecting a Neighbour Free seat.

Neighbour Free seating | Screenshot: Australian Frequent Flyer

They will then be able to select a Neighbour Free seat from a seat map, making payment by credit card (payments using flight credits or Qantas TravelPass are not accepted). 

Passengers can reserve a maximum of one Neighbour Free seat per booking, and the empty seat cannot be used for carry-on baggage or infant seating. 

The following passengers will not be eligible for Neighbour Free seating:

  • Purchased additional products such as extra legroom
  • Requested an upgrade
  • Travelling with an infant
  • Have an unaccompanied minor in the booking
  • Travelling on group booking

Neighbour Free seating is not guaranteed!


Here’s the kicker: Neighbour Free seating is not guaranteed. If the seat next to you ends up being sold at the last minute, customers will receive a refund of their Neighbour Free fee within two weeks. 

So as much as I appreciate having an empty seat next to me, it’s hard not to feel cynical about this. After all, Qantas wins either way:

  • If the seat is occupied by a last-minute customer, he/she is probably paying Qantas much more than your Neighbour Free fee
  • If the seat ends up empty, Qantas still earns something from that seat which it otherwise wouldn’t have

I’ve seen complaints that this charges customers for something they’d have received for free, but to be fair, that’s not an accurate characterisation of how it works either. 

For example, if there are 10 empty seats left in Economy, and four passengers have purchased the Neighbour Free option, Qantas will sell the six remaining seats first. But if a 7th last-minute passenger shows up, the one of the four passengers isn’t going to get their empty seat. 

In that sense, Qantas is monetising the luck of the draw, because what your Neighbour Free fee is really buying is a better chance of getting an empty seat next to you. To put it another way, an empty neighbour seat is a valuable commodity that is currently being distributed for free, by pure luck. Qantas is now assigning these to passengers who are willing to pay for it. 

I do wonder how awkward it’ll be in a row of three where the aisle passenger buys the empty seat. Does the window seat passenger have no right to that middle seat (e.g. for extra storage) because the aisle passenger paid for it?

That’d be an interesting conversation. 


Qantas has expanded its Neighbour Free product to international routes including Singapore, so be on the lookout for an invitation to purchase on your next flight to Brisbane, Melbourne or Perth. 

Just remember that unlike similar programmes offered by other airlines, there’s no guarantee of an empty seat. You’re improving your chances of getting one, but Qantas still has the option of selling that seat to any last-minute customers (with a refund of the fee, of course).

Would you buy a Neighbour Free seat?

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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Very interesting concept. What if both aisle and window passengers bought the same empty seat – is that possible?


Might be phase 2 of the trial.

Selecting a seat next to an empty seat which someone already paid for = $100. Selecting a seat next to an empty seat which hasn’t been spoken for = $150.

This way, the number of empty seats is kept down while number of fee paying pax kept up.

Ben Jamin

This sounds like a bit of a waste of money as I can’t imagine other passengers will respect it and will just dump themselves or their belongings into “your” unused seat. They should make people who can’t seem to contain themselves into their paid seats buy these – like all those manspreaders.


People barely respect the blocked middle seats in eurobiz. I can’t see this being any better.

WIlliam Lai

If a person travels during a lull period, the plane itself might not even be full, hence free open seats.


Question is who’s going to be the seat police in the event of guaranteed dispute ? Imagine hypothetically no one take up the offer, are they going barricade the empty seats to prove a point ?

Last edited 6 months ago by xiaoboy

It’s a joke that u pay upfront immediately but they are allowed 2 weeks to refund.

Selling this really opens a can of worms especially when you buy and the person next to you does not like the example Aaron mentioned. I’d say to hell with it and pray the person in the same row as you pays for it for your comfort. Even without seat space at least the arm rest and leg space is there