Have your say about airline seating

By | Category: Travel news

airline seats – are airlines deliberately splitting families up so as to to be able to charge for sitting together.

The Civil Aviation Authority wants to hear your views about charging for allocated airline seating. And you have until March 2nd to complete their online survey.

Over ten days ago, the CAA launched a review of airline allocated seating polices after conducting consumer research that showed the current approach to allocated seating is causing confusion.

Since then there has been a deafening silence from the airlines. they haven’t come out saying that the practice is happening or that the suggestion being made by the CAA is incorrect.

The CAA research of over 4,000 consumers who have flown as part of a group (of two or more people) in the last year, found that:

  • Just over 50% of respondents reported that their airline informed them before they booked their flight that they would need to pay to ensure their group could sit together
  • 10% said that they had been informed after they booked; a further 10%  said that they were never made aware by their airline that they may need to pay more to guarantee sitting together
  • Although the vast majority of respondents were aware that they might not be able to sit together even if they booked as a group, almost half believed that their airline would automatically allocate them seats together
  • However, 40% of respondents thought that their airline would not automatically sit them together
  • Around half of all passengers who sat together did not have to pay an additional charge to do so. However, 7% of respondents that ended up sitting together said that they had to change seats either at check-in or on-board to avoid being sat apart
  • Different airlines may behave differently. Consumers flying with some airlines were more likely to report being separated from their group than others
  • Of the group of respondents that paid extra to sit together, 60% reported that they did so because of the risk that their airline might split their group up
  • 46% felt negatively towards the airline when they realised they would have to pay more to guarantee sitting together.

The CAA announced that the survey results were “weighted and are representative of all GB adults. (aged 18+)” I think this is wrong and that the results should have been weighted to reflect the flying public as a whole and not the entire population. By making it representative of the GB, the results probably understate the size of the problem.

The CAA believes that UK consumers may be paying between £160-390m 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. Our work will consider whether or not these charges are fair and transparent.

Personally I don’t doubt that airlines take advantage of this since ancillary revenue is so important to them with some airlines saying that up to 50% of their income comes from add-ons rather than ticket sales. The question is whether they feed te rumour that you have to pay to be seated next to each other or whether they deliberately break groups and families up so that passengers are more likely to pay.

I’ve completed the online survey with my thoughts. Have you?

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