Seateroo launches app for seat swaps

Tries to bring sharing economy to air travel

A southern California-based company has launched an app that will allow air passengers to pay to swap seats with other passengers on the same flight.

The idea is that passengers unhappy with their seat location will pay to swap for a desired seat. Sellers, in return for being paid, are willing to swap for a less desired seat.

Seateroo says the app is innovative in two ways:

  • it aims to gives passengers an opportunity to upgrade to a better seat even when desired seats are sold out
  • after booking a flight, Seateroo gives passengers a new opportunity to reduce their travel cost

Seateroo gives a number of reasons for launching the app now.

  • sharing economy apps such as Uber and Airbnb have reached the point of wide-spread recognition and acceptance
  • many airlines have been experimenting with auctions for unsold seat upgrades, whether during the days before a flight or at the boarding gate
  • airports and airlines continue to expand and improve their Wi-Fi offerings

Passengers might want to change seats for many reasons, pre-trip and in-trip:

  • passengers can cut costs / increase revenue
  • preferred seat not available
  • sit closer to the front
  • board sooner
  • move to a quieter location
  • find a better seat for work or sleep

Seateroo is compatible with the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

At launch the app is only available in the US.


The app is free to download but sellers are charged a commission fee.

The minimum price for a swap is $5.

Seateroo charges a 15% service fee that is calculated as a percentage of the negotiated price to swap seats. For example, if the negotiated price is $10, then Seateroo’s service fee is $1.50.

How it works

1. Ticketed passengers enter market orders to buy or sell a seat.

2. Ticketed passengers choose among market orders and negotiate price.

3. Electronic payments are processed between buyers and sellers.

4. After boarding the flight using their issued boarding passes, ticketed passengers may swap seats.

As airline tickets and boarding passes are not transferable, passengers must board the plane with the ticket or boarding pass issued to them by the airline.

Airline reaction

Airlines are constantly looking for ways to increase ancillary revenue including using auctions to sell more premium seats rather see passengers use miles for free or upgraded trips.

Many airlines want passengers to pay to select a seat and use various techniques to ‘encourage’ them to do that.

For example, passengers buying the cheapest ticket are not even allowed to choose their seat at check-in and are allocated a seat by the airline.

Experience shows the allocated seat to be at the back of the plane and different from the preferred option stored in the airlines passenger profile. So if you tell an airline in your profile that you prefer an aisle, they may be tempted to give you a window. Next time you fly with them you might then pay for an isle seat.

An app like Seateroo opens the possibility for passengers to still get their preferred seat but at a lower cost than the airline charges.

So will airlines like this? Unlikely.

Will they then copy the idea or have it stopped? Let’s see.

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