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Civil Aviation Authority takes aim at airlines seating charges

ryanair & easyjetThe UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has announced a probe into the seating fees airlines charge passengers. The investigation has been announced in the wake of increasing numbers of complaints about the murky pay-per-seat policies of the nation’s biggest airlines.

Many of the complaints from passengers say they had not bothered to pay the fee only to find they were then separated from groups and, in some cases, young children. Another major gripe is from passengers who had paid the seat fee only to find seats all around them were vacant when the flight took off.

A study of 4,000 passengers who flew as part of groups on 10 carriers was carried out by the CAA. More than 50 per cent of the respondents were told when they made their reservations that they would have to pay seat fees to guarantee they would not be split up.

Passengers who coughed up the add-on charge claimed they had done so because they were afraid the airline would randomly seat them so they were not travelling with their friends or family. Sixty per cent of those who paid the fee were in this group.

Nearly half of the smaller group who had not paid the fee said they thought their carrier would seat them together simply because they were travelling as a group. CAA head Andrew Haines explained that the probe would be assessing how airlines allocated seats and whether they were intentionally splitting up groups.

Airlines which have responded so far say it ain’t so. An easyJet statement said an algorithm was used to allocate seats to passengers who had not opted to pay. Ryanair says its seating policies are clearly defined and passengers only have to pay an extra €2 (£1.76) to ensure they travel with their families but kids’ seats are free anyway.

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