Flying Apart

Thomas Cook Boeing 757 at Manchester
Thomas Cook Boeing 757 at Manchester

As airlines continue to look for interesting ways to squeeze the last penny out of travellers, there is interesting article from airfarewatchdog.com which talks about the growing trend for airlines to start charging people to sit together on the plane, particularly in Coach/Economy.

Increased baggage charges (on all checked in bags), credit card handling fees, airport taxes, air passenger taxes, lengthy security checks, long immigration and passport control queues and now this. Long gone are the days of actually enjoying flying; welcome to Third Class travel, 21st century style!

Airlines now collect billions of dollars each year in what is termed ancillary revenue. Low-cost Florida based Spirit Airlines gets one third of its total revenue from ancillary charges and is one of two airlines that even charges for all carry-on baggage. The other is Allegiant Airlines.

First a lot of airlines stopped offering complimentary food, then they introduced Economy Plus where for a fee you could travel in comparative comfort. Now more and more airlines are charging customers for actually selecting their seat location.

Airlines are starting to set aside more of what they call “preferred seats”, the popular window and aisle seats and exit rows for passengers willing to pay extra or for frequent flyers and business travellers.

Families travelling together might now find themselves having to stump up extra cash just to be able to sit together on the flight if they do not want to take a chance and wait until they arrive at check-in. Of course there always has been the risk that a family might be split up but with the ability of passengers to pre-book their seats, those risks become higher for those people not willing to cough up the extra cash.

Below are just a few examples so it is worth checking with your travel agent or airline when making any bookings. Remember, if you are happy to take a gamble then you can just wait until check-in and see what availability there is, at no cost.

With British Airways if you want to pre-book your seat before the flight it will cost you up to $38 (£25) per person per flight in Economy. So a family of four could have to pay an additional $304 (£200) to guarantee travelling together on a return flight from the UK to Florida. You are allowed to book your seat online up to 24 hours before departure for free, subject of course to availability.

American Airlines charge from $4 per seat per flight for what they call Preferred Seats, near the front of the cabin. With AirTran on a typical flight from San Francisco you could expect to pay between $6 and $20 to pre-book your seat assignment.

Some airlines like Virgin Atlantic still allow you to pre-book your seat in advance at no charge but not all seats are available for pre-booking.

Other pages of interest