Airline Gets Creative in Getting Travelers to Take Middle Seat

Virgin Australia launches $147K lottery, with prizes each week for those who sit in least desirable spots
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 25, 2022 11:52 AM CDT
Updated Oct 29, 2022 12:50 PM CDT
Mind Taking the Middle Seat? Will a Big Prize Convince You?
Virgin Australia planes are parked at Sydney Airport in Sydney on Aug. 5, 2020.   (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Is there ever anyone who actually wants the middle seat during a flight? If there is, we haven't met them, but that may soon change thanks to some coaxing on the matter by Virgin Australia. Per a recent social media poll offered by the airline, a paltry 0.6% of the 7,500 respondents said they prefer the middle over an aisle or window seat—and CNN Business figures those people likely marked that preference in the poll by mistake. But the airline isn't splitting hairs on that figure, instead opting to "bring on wonderful" with its new Middle Seat Lottery, which it hopes will take away the stigma of the "bugbear for travelers since the dawn of aviation."

The gist of the lottery, which is offering nearly $150,000 in prizes, is: You're automatically entered if you're an adult member of the airline's Velocity Frequent Flyer program and end up in the middle seat on a flight—whether because you chose it or were begrudgingly made to sit there—before April 23. You also have to officially enter the lottery on the Virgin Australia app within 48 hours of your departure time. One winner will be chosen per week, with prizes including a Caribbean cruise, adventure excursions, tickets and flights to Australian Football League games, and a huge chunk of points added to frequent flyer accounts.

"We are having a lot of fun coming up with exciting innovations to make every part of the travel experience more wonderful," Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka says in a statement, per CNN. Some commenters on the airline's social media posts about the promotion are hailing the lottery as "genius thinking," while others aren't so sure. "I sat in the middle seat of a virgin flight from Adelaide to Perth last month. All I got was covid from the unmasked woman sitting behind me who didn't stop coughing the whole flight," one person wrote. (More flight stories.)

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