The ‘World’s Best Airline’ Is About to Start Charging to Pick Your Seat

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Emirates, lauded as the world’s best airline with the world’s best in-flight entertainment, plans a major booking change beginning next month that flyers may or may not like.

Beginning in October, Emirates will charge flyers to choose their seats. An Emirates spokesperson told Credit.com by email that the Dubai-based, government-operated airline will introduce “a minimal charge for those looking to select their Economy seat in advance, for tickets issued on or after October 3, 2016.”

The charge, the price range of which the spokesperson hadn’t confirmed by press time, will apply specifically to Special and Saver fares in the Economy Class, and “will vary depending on the duration of the flight,” they noted. Passengers checking in online two days before departure will not pay the fee.

According to the carrier’s site, Special fares are the company’s lowest and carry restrictions. Meanwhile, “a Saver fare is slightly more flexible than a Special fare,” the site says. (Emirates defines its fares as the price of a ticket, and not the ticket itself.)

The Emirates fee may be new, but the precedent for charging customers was set long ago by other international carriers. Baggage fees are increasingly common among airlines like Aer Lingus and Air Canada, while others like British Airways are known for charging so-called service fees for cancelling, booking or changing a flight.

Brett Snyder, author of the consumer air travel blog, The Cranky Flier, said via email that we can thank economics for these fees. To him, Emirates’ latest change proves “that when economics get involved, it’s too hard to ignore the revenue benefit for charging for services that may be included in the ticket price today. Emirates is seeing revenue softness,” he added, “and is trying to boost its bottom line.”

Matthew Ma, co-founder of the travel deals site, The Flight Deal, agreed, noting the practice will likely only continue. “More airlines will charge for services they used to give for free,” he said over email.

Tips for Avoiding Airline Fees 

With the price of travel soaring ever higher these days, consumers owe it to themselves (and their wallet) to check the total cost of tickets before signing up. That means factoring in charges for baggage fees and meals, as well as any fees for bringing pets or carrying an infant on your lap, for instance.

One way to cut down the price of airfare is by putting miles from airline rewards credit cards to use. Some cards will grant you the VIP treatment, offering access to airline lounges and waiving baggage fees away. Just remember, your credit needs to be solid before you apply as these cards are typically extended only to those with good credit. You can see where you currently stand by viewing a free summary of your credit report on Credit.com.

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The 10 Best Airlines in the World

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Americans’ Favorite Airlines: Southwest, Alaska & JetBlue

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If you’re comparison shopping flights for you summer vacation, take note: Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue were named as the airlines with the best customer service in the industry.

These rankings are based on the 2016 Temkin Experience Ratings, an annual customer experience ranking of companies using the opinions of 10,000 consumers in the U.S. This is the seventh year of the survey, which is conducted by Temkin Group, a research and consulting firm.

The survey asks consumers about their experiences with different companies and ranks them based on three main elements — how successful consumers are at doing what they set out to do with the brand, how easy/difficult it is to work with the brand, and how consumers feel about their experience with each brand.

Southwest has earned the top spot every year since the report was first issued in 2011, except in 2015 when JetBlue overtook the leading position. Southwest is back on top again in the airlines category this year, coming in at 52nd place overall out of the almost 300 companies ranked in 20 different industries.

While Southwest earned a 67% approval rating that caused it to lead the nine airlines that were ranked, Spirit Airlines made the bottom of the list, with only a 40% approval rating. (Spirit Airlines did not immediately respond to Credit.com’s request for comment on the rankings.)

Here is how each airline included in the survey ranked:

1. Southwest Airlines: 67%

2. Alaska Airlines: 62%

2. JetBlue Airlines: 62%

4. Delta Airlines: 59%

5. Virgin America: 55%

6. American Airlines: 52%

7. United Airlines: 51%

8. US Airways: 48%

9. Spirit Airlines: 40%

Whichever airline you prefer to fly with, flights can get expensive. You can cut back on some of the extra fees with airline credit cards and even get rewards points that help you pay for your next flight (you can check out our independent ranking of the best airline credit cards on the market here). But keep in mind that, while these credit cards offer some perks you may enjoy, getting into credit card debt to save on checking a suitcase simply isn’t worth it.

(You can see how paying your credit cards off in full each month helps your credit score by reviewing your free credit report summary for free each month on Credit.com.)

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People Would Rather Sit Next to Donald on a Plane Than Hillary, Bernie

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Pretend for a moment that you’re on a plane, and a flight attendant taps on your shoulder: “Just FYI — the seat next to you will be occupied by a presidential candidate.”

Who do you hope it is?

For many Americans, it’s Donald Trump they’d prefer for a seat buddy on this highly improbable flight. According to a survey of 9,700 travelers, 36.8% said they’d most like to sit next to the presumptive Republican nominee for president. Bernie Sanders was second-most popular (barely) with 31.9% of the vote, followed by Hillary Clinton (31.3%). The margin of error is plus or minus 1.1%.

SmarterTravel, parent company of flight-comparison site Airfarewatchdog, conducted the email survey between May 19 and May 23, and the sample is nationally representative, according to a company spokesperson. It was part of a larger survey about air travel.

What the survey didn’t ask about, unfortunately, was the respondents’ motives for choosing their seat mate. Sitting next to politician isn’t necessarily indicative of a vote. Some people might want to sit next to Trump (or Clinton or Sanders) for the chance to interrogate them. (My boss, for one, would treasure such an opportunity.)

Of course, the odds of you seeing a presidential candidate on a commercial airline aren’t great — even Sanders, who collected social-media praise for flying coach, is taking more private flights. Heck, Trump has his own plane, complete with gold fixtures and Trump-crest-embroidered pillows. And Clinton likely would be far too busy doing who-knows-what on her phone to engage with whomever she’s seated next to.

For more realistic flight perks, you might want to look to an airline loyalty program or a credit card that rewards you for travel. That’s not necessarily going to land you in the seat next to anyone notable, but maybe you’ll see someone famous in an airline lounge. If not, a free checked bag or priority boarding should be some sort of consolation. As always, consider your overall financial goals before getting a credit card just for the perks — rewards credit cards can make it tempting to overspend. You can monitor your financial goals, like your credit score, for free on Credit.com.

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