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Airlines investigated over seating policy

Airlines flying to or from the UK will be investigated because families and groups are split up on board.

An investigation has begun into seating policies at various airlines flying to and from the UK, the country’s Civil Aviation Authority says.

It will look at the allegation that some companies are deliberately splitting up families and other groups in an effort to force them to pay to sit together.

Airlines allocate seating by using computer algorithms, but the BBC reports of many incidents of family and friends being split up when they board the flight – including very young children.

It gives the example of one young mother, Natalie Williams, who regularly takes her children to visit her parents who live in Portugal.

Before one recent TAP Air Portugal flight, she checked in online to find that the family of four had been separated, which meant a two-year-old child and five-year-old travelling on their own.

“We were not even anywhere near them,” she says. “I didn’t think that was acceptable.”

No one was available to ask at the check-in desk or at the gate, so – like so many passengers, especially on low-cost carriers – she had to ask other passengers to move so the family could at least travel in pairs.

Common experiences
Similar experiences are common on low-cost carriers, and the Civil Aviation Authority says it wants to ensure that seat allocation practices are “fair and transparent”.

It surveyed more than 4,000 passengers who recently flew as part of a group on ten airlines. It found that just over half had been told to pay more if they wanted to sit together.

But almost half of the respondents believed the airline would automatically give them seats together.

A spokeswoman for Ryanair told the BBC, “Our policy is very clear for our customers.”

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