Confusing Seating Policies Are Airlines's Newest Way to Profit
According to a new report by the UK's Civil Aviation Authority, airlines are confusing families into paying additional fees to sit together.
If planning a vacation or a weekend getaway wasn’t hard enough already, flying nowadays requires you to be completely informed on all airlines’ policies if you want to avoid enormous fees at check-in. “I didn’t know!” doesn’t cut it anymore—in fact, airlines are banking on you not reading the fine print in order to make money. Case in point? Many airlines are now trying to make you pay extra just to sit with your friends and family members.
According to a report by the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), airlines are purposefully being unclear on their seating policies so families and groups pay more when booking to ensure they can sit together. For the report, the CAA surveyed more than 4,000 consumers who traveled together with one or more people in the past year, asking them questions about if, when, where, and how they were told they needed to pay extra to sit together, as well as which airline they were flying.
Of those surveyed, around half of all passengers didn’t have to pay an additional charge to sit together. But in order to do that, seven percent of those surveyed found they were not automatically assigned to sit together and had to change seats at check-in or ask a fellow flyer to switch seats once on-board. Even though passengers found ways around paying 50 percent of the time to travel as a group, people still pay up in order to avoid a hassle. Six in ten passengers that paid to sit together did so to prevent the airline from splitting up their group.
Looking for the best chance to sit together and avoid extra fees? Of the UK-based airlines surveyed Flybe, Monarch Airlines, and TUI airlines had the smallest number of passengers separated from their group when they didn’t pay an additional fee (12 percent). And though Ryanair might be known for their super cheap flights, they more than make up for it by being sticklers with their policies: 35 percent of those who didn’t pay to sit together were separated from their group.
Want to make sure you’re not separated from your tot on your next flight? You might have better luck when flying domestically. According to the New York Post, Congress passed the Families Flying Together Act in 2016 to ensure that families with children under the age of 13 are seated adjacent to a family member at no additional cost. However, the Federal Aviation Administration has yet to enact or enforce the law in the states. So for now, paying the additional fee might, unfortunately, be your best option. Want to save money elsewhere? Here, 10 genius in-flight dining hacks to save you time and money.