The days of queuing up early at Qantas check in counters to try and score an exit row seat on long international flights are soon to end.

It will sell the prized seats for a $160 surcharge on very long flights like London and Los Angeles, or $80 over shorter distances, or even for frequent flyer points, on line and in advance.

The details are still being finalised. But trying to charm these roomier seats out of check-in staff is ‘over.’

If Qantas includes all ‘extra spacey’ economy seats, in bulkhead rows, or other quirky locations like seat 71D in an A380, and not just exit rows, it could rake in millions of dollars extra each year per jet on the long routes to Europe and the US.

On the A380, which has 332 economy seats, all on the main deck, there are actually at least 31 which have greatly enhanced legroom, which can found in minute detail on the seat map section.


They are row 50 A,B,C, and row 51 H,J,K, which serve a set of major door exits, and 52 D,E,F,G a set of four seats with extra space behind a centrally located galley.

At row 66 the entire 10 seats across offer extra legroom at another set of emergency exits.

Seat 71 D has no seat immediately in front of it unlike the rest of the row because of a concealed floor hatch.

Moving back to the next set of emergency exits the layout provides unlimited legroom to 79 B,C and 79 H,J, but the two window seats in the next row, 80A and 80K have no seat in front of them. A further set of four seats in the middle of this section of economy, 81 D,E,F,G also have generous legroom.

If Qantas sold all of those seats per A380 flight daily each way to London it would gain $9920 in extra revenue, or an annual gain of $3.6208 million. It actually plans up to four A380 returns daily to Heathrow when it gets its full initial fleet of the giant Airbuses, so the sums are only going to grow, and it will make extra revenue on its remaining 747s and some A330 services as well.

Of course Qantas hasn’t confirmed anything yet, but those are the seats that deliver the legroom, and ease of access, most travellers want, and anyone who is going to Europe and feels put off by an additional $160 needs to study the cost side carefully. You will be lucky to pay less than $160 just to park a rental car for two nights in parts of England, sometimes for less than the lodgings.

However more than money is needed to buy true exit row seats, as in the triple or double seats right beside an emergency exit. You have to be fit, you can’t be in advanced pregnancy, you can’t be travelling with children, or physically impaired.

You have understand how to assist in an emergency evacuation.

In the past you had to be assessed at the airport. Now Qantas will ask the key questions in the booking process, and then boot you out of the seat if you turn up incapable of meeting the requirements.

Qantas says it has no plans at this stage to sell exit row seating for a surcharge on domestic services, something already offered by Virgin Blue, Jetstar and Tiger.