/ Travel & Leisure

Why should families pay extra just to sit together?

Why should families have to pay more to sit together on a flight? I don’t think they should, and I think it’s common sense for airlines to put children together with their parents.

After all if you’re off on holiday without children, the last thing you want is to be seated next to a six-year-old who’s upset at being separated from their parents. There are also safety issues – how can a parent sat in a different row help their child in an emergency?

The official regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, agrees. It has guidelines for airlines, stating that they should ideally put young children and infants in the same row as the accompanying adult. But airlines and big tour operators have decided it’s a good idea to charge parents for the privilege.

For two adults and two children, charges for picking their seats can add up to £84 on top of a long-haul holiday if the family flew with Thomson, or £80 if they were with Cosmos or Thomas Cook.

And even if you pay the charges, it seems you’re not guaranteed to sit next to your child. Thomson says a family who pays the charge might be ‘in front, behind or across the aisle’ from each other.

Charged more to sit together on family flights

One Which? member who decided not to pay the charge when travelling with children aged ten, eight and three, found that all of them were initially given separate seats spread around the plane, which was then delayed while cabin crew moved people around in order to put the family closer together.

Not surprisingly, our member paid the extra charges for the return flight, before contacting us to highlight what she believes is ‘purely a money making exercise’.

Another Which? member, who booked a holiday from the family section of Thomson’s website, was called by the company sometime after the booking asking whether he wanted to pay for the family to be seated together.

I think these charges are wrong. They unnecessarily bump up the price of holidays at a time when many families are struggling to pay for holiday breaks at all – a report from the Family Action charity this week found that many couldn’t even afford days out in the UK.

Why should airlines and tour operators charge so much for a service they should offer as standard? You have to say how old your children are when you book a holiday, so why can’t the travel companies pick out the families with children under a set age, and automatically put them on a priority list to be seated together?

Should families be charged extra to sit together on a flight?

No - airlines should try and seat families together free of charge (96%, 203 Votes)

Yes - families should pay extra to select their seats (5%, 11 Votes)

Total Voters: 214

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Argus says:
17 July 2012

How about putting them together for free and then if they cry/whinge/moan whilst disturbing other passengers, they get fined?

Flyboy says:
26 July 2012

How about fining ALL passengers who whinge and moan. Airlines would make a lot more money from adults than children!

This is all part of some airlines’ policies of drip pricing and misleadingly advertising fares that are much lower than the typical final price, charasterised by charges for paying with a debit card, hold baggage and soon cabin baggage as well. These airlines will continue to think up all kinds of “optional” charges that can’t reasonably be avoided in order to inflate the final price well above the advertised price.

I was expected to sit apart from my family a few years back, I already challenged BA about this using human rights legislation, the right to family life, forcing families to sit apart breaches that aspect of the human rights act. They rearranged my seating at no extra cost.

So the airline sits your 6 year old daughter 25 aisles away from her parents between 2 guys who like a drink or 2 when flying, scaring a her so much she is too frightened to report this to her parents and is traumatised for life.
This the airline is prepared to let happen, unless you pay up so you can have your child close by and safe.

I would define this as extortion.

[Part of this comment has been removed for breaking our commenting guidlines. Please try and stay away from upsetting examples. Thanks, mods.]

Argus says:
17 July 2012

I would define that as an extreme hypothesis dreamed up to get your own way. That really is quite an absurd reaction to a very minor point.

Some people have a clear misunderstanding of what human rights actually are, just try not to take the moral outrage default reaction and read nfh’s response that hits the nail on the head

This is not extreme or a hypothesis: I have previously given up my seat to enable a young child to be moved from besides a rather obnoxious fellow because I was genuinely worried for her safety. I am not posting examples of incidents that have occurred on air planes to single female travellers, you can look that up for yourselves, but assaults and boorish behaviour is far more common on flights than you may be aware of. It should be mandatory that children are seated with parents, for safty if nothing else. I think it is disgusting that airlines are using the threat of separating parents and children for what can be 12 hours at a time, in order to make a few extra shillings.

I cannot agree with your premise that this separation of parent from child is a minor point, I consider a major concern.

As to my challenge to BA, I think you misread me. I did not do this out of moral outrage and I am conversant with the bill. I did this to force them to sit us as a family without having to pay for the ‘privilege’ After all if our legal eagles can use this bill to get compo for prisoners having to slop out, then surely I can do the same to be able to sit next to my wife on a long haul flight.

I don’t have children but I don’t like the idea of sitting next to a young child who might be distressed at not being with their parents. Parents should be sat next to their children not just because it makes logical sense and is better for the family, but because it’s better for everyone on the plane.

If anyone spots me on a plane and wants to swap seats with me so they can sit next to their own child, I’ll be out of my seat and ready to swap before you can say ‘surcharge.’

Catherine says:
18 July 2012

I don’t have young children and was unaware of this extra charge which I find ridiculous. Parents should make a stand and refuse to pay the charge, thereby hopefully causing chaos when the children need the help and attention of their parents. I cannot believe that airlines are allowed to do this.

I think all air passengers should make a stand, not just parents.

People without kids want to see kids on planes sitting with their parents. People with kids want to be sitting next them. And I’m pretty certain that air stewards and stewardesses don’t want to have to deal with young children sitting on their own in a hysterical state because they’re not sitting next to a parent (or guardian).

So why should parents be the ones that have to pay extra to solve the problem? And as Chris points out, even if parents do pay the extra fee this doesn’t guarantee that they will be able to sit next to their child.

It’s ridiculous to think that my 2 year old may not be able to sit next to me on a flight. While I appreciate that large family groups traveling together aren’t able to all sit next to each other, it should be the case that all young children, certainly under five, have to sit directly next to a parent or guardian. For reasons of safety, as well as to comfort (and treat-bribe to be quiet and not kick the chair in front), this is a no-brainer.

Whilst being in agreement with your post, I do find this comment ‘ So why should parents be the ones that have to pay extra to solve the problem?’ indicative off how the airlines change our perceptions without us realising they do so.
In all my many decades of air travel I have never known that seating families together was a problem, until the airlines started charging for the ‘privilege’. Suddenly sitting families together is problematic, when did this happen?

It shouldn’t be difficult for airlines to sit families together – except for the last few to arrive: when there are a few scattered seats left (and this could be minimised).

Airlines could deliberately sit people apart: to encourage them to pay the rip-off charge next time.

If families, who had not paid the charge to sit together and been allotted seats apart, sat their young children next to strangers – the airlines would soon change the system (after complaints from staff and passenegrs).

Caroline says:
19 July 2012

Slightly off the subject but my husband and I can never sit together on short haul flights because his legs are so long he is physically unable to sit in the modern aircraft seat. We therefore have to pay extra for leg room so that he can sit down without fuss. On principle we refuse to pay extra for me since I am shorter and can manage. Long legs cannot be helped and we find it infuriating to be forced to pay these extra charges.

Colin C says:
19 July 2012

I thought airlines had a rule that children of a certain age cannot fly unless accompanied by an adult.
If this is the case why should that adult not sit with that child. It makea a mockery of another rule.
NO, all it is, its another method to make money on a plane. Reduce luggage allowance and charge high rates for extra kilogrammes. EXCESS fees for paying by debit and credit cards. No in flight meals unless you pay high rates for a sandwich or flavoured water. Two weeks ago Thomson phoned me at home to ask if I wanted to buy seats together for the 2013 holiday I recently booked! On principal – NO!

Flyboy says:
21 July 2012

I was seperated from my wife and infant son on part of a long haul flight. When I asked the lone ‘gentleman’ next to my son if he’d like to swap his seat for mine a few rows back he indignantly declined.
My son behaved as 2 year olds normally do on long flights and before long he approached me to take up my offer. I told him that I was having a nice peaceful flight and, like him earlier, did not wish to move!
I would never pay a surcharge to sit together as a family. I’d love to hear the tour companies’ justification for what I consider extortion.

Dave D says:
29 July 2012

Fantastic response.
You should have moved back – as long at the lone passenger paid you a surcharge!!!

Flyboy says:
21 July 2012

I have to say that since the last ‘incident’ 3 years ago, we continue to refuse such surcharges and have always been seated together. Fellow passengers even compliment us on the behaviour of our son on long haul flights and that is because he sits between both his parents and feels happy and secure.

Flyboy says:
21 July 2012

My daughter is now 23 and we never paid any kind of surcharge to sit together in all the years we went on flights with her as a child. Surely this goes to prove that this surcharge is a ‘nice little earner’ dreamt up by the industry to extort extra cash from passengers. We’ll be paying a surcharge for the privilege of sitting INSIDE the aircraft soon!

Stephanie says:
25 July 2012

I fly regularly with young children and refuse to pay the extra. I even wait until the end rather than rush to grab some seats together and calmy ask a member of cabin staff for three seats together and wait. If we are not put together I take the view that I will not be responsible for my hyperactive 5 year old and that he would effectively become an unaccompanied minor needing supervision by the cabin crew. Yes, the people already seated are not happy either (understandably) but faced with the choice of moving or a hyperactive kid they generally move. I have yet to fly separated from my kids! I used to work in the airline industry and there is no excuse for these extra costs. The staff have a legal duty of care.

Roy says:
25 July 2012

I have to agree with some of the comments here. It is distressing for young children to be seated alone but luckily that has never happened to me or my children. I have always on principle refused to pay for being seated together and the only time we could not get adjacent seats at the check-in, the staff organised a swap without even being asked.
I also travel for business myself and have no problem swapping seats to allow a family to sit together.
In my opinion this is becoming an endemic part of our culture in all walks of life. While airlines are bad, there are numerous other offenders, theatres, bus & train companies, delivery/courier firms and almost anyone else who thinks they can get away with imposing charges for merely doing their jobs.
We are gradually becoming conditioned to paying these “extras” when we should all take a stand and refuse.
Thanks for reading my rant, and unfortunately there will be a small charge ….

jackie fletcher says:
25 July 2012

It used to be the policy that people with young children boarded the plane first, but this no longer seems to be the case.

Dave D says:
29 July 2012

Booked flights for a trip to spain with my family consisting of 2 adults & 4 kids.
Suitcases £ 180
On line check in £20
Debit card fee £50
Booking Fee £48
Seating together £65
Meal on board £42
Why not just be fair and reasonable and wrap it all up in one fee and include in the price.
When my kids fly to the States unaccompanied then i have to pay for an adult seat and then on top of that i have to pay a fee as they are unsupervised.
As many have said previously – the industry just rips us off as it sees fit.
Bring back sanity!!!

Trudy says:
4 August 2012

I have flown with my family numerous times with Thomson, and refuse to pay the extra to sit together. It is a rip off and the airlines are trying it on to get extra money out of us all! If you get to the airport in plenty of time to check in, you will get seats together. Air stewards do not want small children sitting without a parent as it is too much hassle. I have been on flights with my own family when my husband has been asked to move away from us to allow another family to have a parent sitting with two children also. This is perfectly acceptable to me and probably makes the flight more comfortable for all passengers. Children can be a real pain on flights, kicking the back of seats and jumping around making loads of noise etc., so if they have a parent with them, at least there is half a chance of stopping them. Maybe the airlines are trying to put families off from flying?? Who knows?

Paul T says:
5 August 2012

I booked through expedia for a family group of 9 (grandparents, parents(children) and grandchildren). On all flights, seats were allocated together. The airline was United.
However, one flight was actually a codeshare for BMI but operated by United. I was informed about four weeks ago that because BritishAirways had bought BMI (and a different alliance), this flight had been changed to BA. I was also informed that we had lost our seat allocation and seats were to be allocated at check in. I tried to allocate our seats but was asked by BA for £25 per seat for the privilege of reserving seats that had been allocated by United for free. I bet those who have booked through BA for this flight have been able to allocate their seats. BA have assured me each child will be allocated a seat next to one of the adults.

My question is: if United can allocate seats for free which cannot BA, or is this just a British problem?

Sally says:
8 August 2012

My husband and I have just returned from a Thompson holiday (never again). On the outward journey we were told that seats across the aisle were considered as adjacent, which was news to us. The company did its best at a number of points during the holiday to get us to pay to sit together (at the welcome meeting etc). We decided we were old enough to risk having to be separated for 4 hours and did not take the bait. On arrival at the airport we were stunned to find that we had been pre-booked by Thompson in seats that were adjacent. The plane itself turned out to be about 1/3 empty. What a scam.