Airline seating to be investigated as consumers pressured to pay to sit together

5 February 2018

A review into whether the fees airlines charge passengers to sit together are “fair and transparent” has been launched by the aviation regulator.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) found that UK consumers collectively may be paying between £160 million to £390m per year for allocated seating. Of those paying, two-thirds spent between £5 and £30 per seat and a further 8% paid £30 or more.

It says uncertainty around whether groups will be split up by airlines is driving consumers to pay for an allocated seat. However, it found that some consumers are paying to sit together when, in fact, they might not need to.

There is also confusion surrounding airlines seating policies, with 10% of those surveyed by the CAA saying they were never made aware by their airline that they may need to pay more to guarantee sitting together.

Andrew Haines, chief executive of the CAA, says: “Airline seating practices are clearly causing some confusion for consumers. Airlines are within their rights to charge for allocated seats, but if they do so it must be done in a fair, transparent way. 

“As part of the review, we will be asking airlines to provide information on their policies and practices. We will be looking into how airlines decide where to seat passengers that have booked as part of a group and whether any airlines are pro-actively splitting up groups of passengers when, in fact, they could be sat together. We will not hesitate to take any necessary enforcement action should it be required at the end of the review.”

The CAA has compiled an airline-by-airline table of whether passengers are likely to be separated on flights, based on a survey of over 4,300 people.

Chances of being separated if not paying extra to guarantee seats by airline

 People who didn't pay more to sit together and WERE separated from their group
British Airways (BA)15%
Monarch Airlines12%
Thomas Cook15%
TUI Airways (previously Thomson Airways)12%
Virgin Atlantic18%

Source: Civil Aviation Authority, 5 February 2018.

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In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

My wife daughter and I booked 3 seats at the same time to travel Alicante. As I see it Ryan air have deliberately put us in 3 different rows so they can charge us to sit together. It cost me £20 to move two of us to row 15 to be with our daughter of flight number fr8382 and £39. On the return flight fr8975. This is money earns through profiteering deliberately set up to do wonder Ryan air are 35%.Why exploit a family that book 3 flights at the same time and seat them apart purposely unless it has intentions to rip the consumer off.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I have flown the same route for years (Edinburgh-Dublin) and am now being put at opposite ends of the plane when clearly there are available seats together. This never once happened before. I would not pay but we now have a child under 2 and it's a nightmare if my husband sits at the back and I'm at the front trying to keep the toddler occupied.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

My partner & I had to sit apart on a Thomas Cook holiday last November. It was not very nice sitting next to a stranger for a 4 hour flight. We had no idea that we had to pay more to sit together as we had been on the same holiday the previous year & sat together with no problem. We paid extra to our rep while away so we could sit together on the return flight. I always thought Thomas Cook were one of the best.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

It about the C A A infastegat the arlains for split people up

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Surprise surprise Ryanair top of the list

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

It is part of the overall cost, just so they can advertise from £50, by the time you have put on a suitcase, speed boarding and pre selected seats that is the true price. We always pay for seats together as my wife is a nervous flyer and I don't have a problem with it. We also take cases etc and sometimes a budget flight is nearly the same as a scheduled option, then we see what the timings are before we decide. Strikes me if you want to sit together you pay the fee, it is never that much in the overall cost of a holiday. All that will happen is the base price will go up and it will work out the same anyway. What people want is the all in flight for the low cost base price, you see it with people trying to cram suitcase size hand luggage into the overhead lockers or as I saw on one occasion someone wearing several t shirts and a big coat with socks and pants falling out of the pockets. Bet they would have a fit if someone tried to do similar to them.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

The airlines, often aided and abetted by the package holiday companies, are profiteering by instilling fear into their customers that they'll be separated on flights unless the pay for the privilege of sitting together. It's understandable that "better" (i.e. extra legroom) seats should be charged extra but it costs nothing for an airline to allocate seats on a 1st come 1st served basis and therefor to seat parties together as far as is reasonably practicable.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Monarch Airlines, really?

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I'm not surprised to see Ryanair scoring so badly in that survey of group bookings not being sat together.This story is a shocking reality of how airlines will use various means to drive money out of people for things which used to be free/taken for granted in the past.

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