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Buy More Space in Economy for $10

In the movies, the main character usually gets seated next to the charming, single, sexy passenger on the same flight. In real life, you’re usually stuck next to a loud-talker, a non-showerer, or someone who doesn’t quite fit in his own seat. But what if you could buy an empty seat next to you for just $10 extra? Or get the whole row for $13?

AirAsia X, an airline that flies to a number of Asian, European, and Australasian destinations, recently announced the launch of its Empty Seat Option (ESO) program, which lets you buy empty seats for less than the cost of an actual ticket. The option is only available if the flight has room, of course; if you buy the ESO and the flight then sells out, Air Asia X will refund the cost and you’ll be stuck next to a stranger.

For flights to Australia and New Zealand, two extra seats cost just 50 Malaysian Ringgit (about $16). That’s a steal compared to Air New Zealand’s similar Skycouch option, which is basically three empty coach seats intended for two passengers (probably couples) to share. The Skycouch costs the same as two economy tickets, plus about half price for the third seat.

If you’re one of those perpetually peppy people who consider a stranger “just a friend you haven’t met yet,” maybe you should fly KLM instead. The Dutch carrier recently launched a Meet and Seat social networking program that lets passengers (or creepers) browse (stalk) passengers who are also signed up for the program, on Facebook or LinkedIn, and then choose a seatmate (victim) accordingly.

We wish U.S. carriers would take a cue from AirAsia X—if the seats are going to be empty, why not make a little money off it? Granted, it would be a significant departure from the current climate: $10 won’t even buy you an exit row seat on most carriers these days.

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