Wednesday, 23 October, 2019

CAA investigates airline seating policy

The survey found that 15 per cent of Easyjet customers who did not pay to sit with their group were split The survey found that 15 per cent of Easyjet customers who did not pay to sit with their group were split upPHILIPPE HUGUEN AFP GETTY IMAGES
Russell Knight | 07 February, 2018, 14:08

The airline flatly denied it had changed the way it allocated its seats, but the story grew wings and a handful of complaints turned into thousands with people across Europe saying their travelling parties had also been split up regardless of when they checked in and how many seats were available on their aircraft.

A spokeswoman for Ryanair said the airline was happy to co-operate.

The CAA said it wanted to make sure the practices were "fair and transparent".

Passengers may be paying up to £390m a year in extra airline charges to sit together as a family or a group, the UK's aviation watchdog has warned.

"The reason they can't have these window or aisle seats is that these are more likely to be selected by reserved seat passengers many of whom only check-in 24 hours prior to departure", Ryanair said in statement a year ago.

The CAA's findings have shown that the system is causing confusion amongst travellers who assume they have to pay to sit together.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said that a little more than half of passengers questioned in a survey were told by airlines that they would have to pay to ensure that their group could sit together. "Our policy is very clear for our customers and seats can be purchased from just 2 euros and kids travelling in families get free seats", said a spokeswoman.

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"We will not hesitate to take any necessary enforcement action should it be required at the end of the review", he added.

Seat selection fees are earning airlines more money than ever, with the CAA estimating that up to £390 million a year is now spent by United Kingdom fliers to ensure they sit together. While many were aware all members of the party may not be able to sit together, nearly half believed the airline would automatically allocate them seats together.

Meanwhile, nearly half of people in the survey believed that their airline would automatically allocate them seats together.

UK LCC easyJet said it "understands how important it is that people are seated together and we will fully cooperate with the CAA's review".

As part of the review airlines will need to provide information on how they seat passengers who booked as part of a group and if any airlines are "pro-actively splitting up groups of passengers" when they don't need to, Haines said.

In June, Easyjet told Telegraph Travel that its algorithm sits families together "more than 99 per cent of the time - at no additional cost". However, this could prove hard on busy flights with a high number of passengers who had chosen to pay for specific pre-booked seats. However, the CAA says some airlines may be more likely than others to automatically seat groups together, but there is uncertainty from consumers on how carriers determine seating.

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