Air Canada Pauses Changes to Seat Selection Policy at Check-In

Air Canada has paused making changes to the way passengers booked on specific fares can select seats upon check-in. The airline had previously implemented the changes, but has paused making the changes to a later date, citing operational reasons.

Once the changes are announced and implemented, travellers who book an Economy (Basic) or Economy (Standard) fare will no longer be able to select a Standard seat for free at check-in. Rather, Air Canada will automatically assign a seat upon check-in, and passengers will need to pay to change to a different seat if they so desire.

The date on which the changes will be implemented has yet to be announced.

Air Canada to Change Seat Selection Policy at Check-In

Air Canada will eventually introduce seat assignments at check-in for passengers travelling on select fares, rather than offering complimentary seat selection at check-in.

Once implemented, this means that you’ll no longer be able to select a Standard seat free-of-charge at check-in if you’re booked on an Economy (Basic) or an Economy (Standard) fare. 

Instead, Air Canada will automatically assign you a seat at check-in, and if you’d like to change to a different one, you’ll have to pay a fee ranging from $14–90 (CAD), depending on the route and fare.

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This will be a departure from the current policy, which allows passengers travelling on Economy (Basic) or Economy (Standard) fares the ability to select any available Standard seat for free upon check-in.

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Air Canada has introduced seat assignments at check-in for passengers on Economy (Basic) and Economy (Standard) fares

This new seat assignment policy will affect passengers on an Air Canada flight within Canada, to/from the United States, and on select international itineraries on Economy (Basic) or Economy (Standard) fares. The full list of international destinations that offer complimentary Standard seat selection for Economy (Standard) fares can be found on the Air Canada website.

Note that if you’ve booked a different Air Canada economy fare, including Economy (Flex), Economy (Comfort), and Economy (Latitude), you’ll still be able to select a seat at no cost. 

Likewise, if you have Aeroplan Elite Status, you can select a Preferred seat at no cost either at check-in or in advance (depending on your status and fare purchased), and Super Elites will continue to have access to complimentary Standard and Preferred seat selection on all fares.

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If you travel as a family, all airlines flying to or from Canada must ensure parents are seated nearby to children aged 14 and under, as per Canada’s Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR).

Children aged four and under must be seated next to their parent or guardian, children aged 5–11 must be in the same row and separated by no more than a seat, and children aged 12–13 must be no more than one row away. 

Some Passengers Must Now Pay to Change Assigned Seats

Passengers without status who frequently travel on Economy (Basic) and Economy (Standard) fares on Air Canada flights won’t be happy with this change, since it’s currently possible to select any available Standard seat at check-in for free.

Until the change is implemented, the best strategy is to check in exactly 24 hours prior to departure, at which point you can choose from all available Standard seats in the cabin, and the likelihood of getting a window or aisle seat or a seat closer to the front of the cabin is at its best.

Going forward, Air Canada will automatically assign you a seat at check-in, which could mean that you could get a window or aisle seat, but it could also mean that you get the middle seat in the back row. If you’re travelling with someone else, it’s possible that you could be seated away from each other, too.

If you’re not happy with the seats you’re assigned, you’ll have to pay to move elsewhere.

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Air Canada is now assigning seats at check-in to passengers on Economy (Basic) and Economy (Standard) fares

It’s worth noting that Air Canada isn’t the only airline to assign seats to passengers on lower fares and charge for any changes, as it’s a practice WestJet, Porter Airlines, and Flair Airlines have long had in place. 

From the airline’s perspective, unbundled pricing is transparent through the booking process, in that passengers can choose a lower fare with fewer inclusions, pay for a higher fare that has complimentary seat selection, or pay for a different seat at check-in if the one they’re assigned isn’t desired.

Charging for seat selection is also one of the many ways airlines generate ancillary revenue, which is becoming more and more common these days as airlines unbundle fares and allow passengers to choose options based on what they need. 

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Airlines generate ancillary revenue through many avenues, including seating fees

From the passenger’s perspective, this policy change could result in yet another added cost associated with flying, especially if you want to avoid the possibility of flying in a middle seat, being stuck in the back row, or being separated from your travel partner.

If seating is important to you, it’s worth considering the difference between Economy (Basic), Economy (Standard), and Economy (Flex) fares, since the latter comes with one free checked bag and complimentary advance seat selection, amongst other inclusions.

If you don’t enjoy these inclusions by other means, such as with a co-branded credit card or status, the price difference may be favourable compared to paying for a seat and a bag à la carte with Economy (Basic) or Economy (Standard) fares.

Otherwise, you can look to using fixed-value points currencies to offset any additional fees, or to the $150 travel credit available on the National Bank® World Elite® Mastercard®, which can be used against seat selection fees.


Air Canada has paused making changes to its seat assignment policy for passengers travelling on Economy (Basic) and Economy (Standard) fares. 

Once it’s implemented at a later date, passengers who book these fares will be assigned a Standard seat, and they’ll need to pay to change to a different seat, if desired.

The date on which Air Canada will implement the changes is yet to be announced.

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