Gone are the days when we paid a ‘one-off’ fee for a package holiday, packed our bags, headed off to the airport and boarded the plane with our families having been allocated a row of seats all together.
Life at the check-in desk has become far more complicated for passengers, although the airline doesn’t want you to believe it! We now book our flight and have to make several decisions on which ‘extras’ to choose and pay for, one of those being ‘seat allocation’. If we decide not to pay extra for a seat, we have two options: check in online and hope for the best; or wait until we arrive at the airport and hope that the service agent is sympathetic!
Are group bookings automatically sat together on the plane?
One survey showed that whilst most passengers expect to pay for an allocated seat, nearly 50% assumed that having booked as a group they would automatically be sat together, albeit not in chosen seats. Many of us, of course, do not wish to pay for this, especially if we are travelling with a family where the costs can be high. If you fly with a low cost airline, it may only be a few pounds, but with some of the mid-range carriers it can be nearer £30 per passenger, each way.
Tips on how to sit together
- Check-in online as soon as possible. The time scale can range from 24 hours to 30 days depending on the airline
- Most airlines guarantee that a child will sit next to one parent. Whilst not ideal for families to be separated, this gives some comfort that children will not be travelling alone
- As a single traveller you may want to risk not checking in until you arrive at the airport. With few seats left you could end up with a premium seat without paying the premium price!
- Fly regularly with the same airline, they may then give you special status
- Some ‘add-ons’ include seat allocation. Work out what you’re getting for your money and decide if ‘special fares’ are worth the extra payment
- Don’t just book the cheapest flight on the search engine, first check exactly what you get for your fare. Some airlines still allow you to choose a seat free of charge, but these are few and far between
- It is always worth appealing to the good nature of your check-in officer and request an upgrade; you have nothing to lose and it could be your lucky day!
- If you’re unfortunate and not sitting together, ask the flight attendant if you can be moved to any available empty seats. They usually allow this once the doors are closed and all passengers boarded
- If you are prepared to pay for seat allocation it is advisable to book your flight as early as possible, especially if you are a large group, to ensure that seats are available where you want them
- As a last resort you could try asking a fellow passenger to swap seats with you. This is particularly fruitful if you have a window, aisle or exit row seat and are willing to swap for their middle seat!
Finally, when making the decision whether to pay for your seat or not, bear in mind that most airlines will usually allocate seats together if they are available. Consider how important this aspect of your trip is and how the money could be spent once on holiday. The saving could be considerable and run into several hundred pounds – a few slap-up meals and some good wine!
Remember to book your airport parking at the same time as booking your flights, for the best price.