The United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority announced that it is launching a review into the seating policies of airlines.
In particular, it would be taking a closer look into whether firms are splitting groups of people on purpose just so that they would pay more to be able to sit together.
Airlines claim that they are allocating seats via computer algorithms.
A Ryanair spokeswoman said:
“Our policy is very clear for our customers.” The CAA said it wanted to make sure seat allocation practices were “fair and transparent.”
Research conducted by the CAA involving over 4,000 passengers who had flown as part of a group on 10 carriers during the past year showed that over half of respondents were told they would have to pay more to be able to sit together before they booked flights.
However, nearly half of the respondents held the belief their airline would automatically give them seats seated to one another. Of the group of respondents that paid more to sit together, six in 10 people claimed they did so because of the risk that their airline might split up their group.
Andrew Haines, Chief Executive of the CAA, remarked that airline seating practices were “clearly causing some confusion” and its study indicated some passengers were paying to sit together when it might not be necessary.
“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,” Haines stated.
“We will not hesitate to take any necessary enforcement action should it be required at the end of the review,” he added.
The Ryanair representative said that they are welcoming the move and would cooperate fully.
“Our policy is very clear for our customers and seats can be purchased from just €2 and kids travelling in families get free seats,” she said.
EasyJet also released a statement, saying:
“Unlike some airlines, if passengers choose not to pay to select their seats, EasyJet’s seating system is programmed to try and seat families together when they check-in online by using an algorithm.”