In the early days of Low Cost Carriers, non allocated seating was the norm.
With Ryanair’s announcement of allocated seating from February, 2014, there are few airlines that continue to offer it.
Easyjet made the transition to alllocated seating last year. Jetstar did it in 2011. Air Asia followed on 2012. Southwest continue to offer it but their boarding system is now so complicated it may as well be a form of allocation!
Now airlines (Low cost and full service) almost universally offer seat allocation on line. Some carriers charge a fee for advance seat allocation warning passengers who do not pay for a seat if their choice will get a random (and possibly inferior) seat at the airport or potentially not be able to sit with family or friends.
There seems, to me, to be a number of reasons why airlines will stick with allocated seating:
Technology has shifted the goal posts. Allowing customers to choose on board felt friendlier and suggested passengers had control. Now people can do the same thing with a click of some keys on their phone eliminating hassle at the airport.
There is revenue to be earned from selling premium seats (exit row seats, bulkhead seats, extra leg room seats ) in advance and at check in. It has been proved that passengers will pay to choose the seat they want in advance.
It allows control. If everyone has an allocated seat, then flight attendants can more easily insist people move to their correct seat and not take up a premium seat they have not paid for.
Boarding is more manageable. The unholy scrums that were boarding for Air Asia are now gone. They were awful situations as people fought to get onto the plane first. I have seen fights almost break out with people who are “saving seats” on board. Regular passengers on Southwest tend to work themselves into a state of nervous exhaustion as they worry whether they will get to sit where they want.
Southwest continues to say unallocated seating makes boarding faster. My experience is reducing carry on luggage amounts and sizes makes boarding faster!
Which airlines are you aware of that don’t have allocated seating?