by Hugh Morris from The Telegraph, August 18, 2017
At least one airline is charging more to reserve a specific seat than it costs to book the flight in the first place, new research has shown.
Ryanair, which has been at the centre of a furore over its "random" seat allocation policy, boasts air fares as low as £7.49 one way, according to flight comparison website Kayak, but the charge to choose where you sit can cost as much as £11, for a priority seat with extra leg room. Standard seat selection costs from £2.
Jet2, meanwhile, has been offering one-way flights from just £24 – but securing a seat with additional legroom can set travellers back as much as £18.50 per flight, nearly as much as the airfare.
Other airlines offer the option of seat selection from £13 (Thomas Cook), £7 (British Airways) or £10.55 (Flybe). Virgin Atlantic says choosing a seat from 331 days before a flight costs from £30 each way. Kayak said all prices were correct as taken from airline websites on August 7.
The issue of seat selection has been brought to the forefront of travellers’ minds this summer after holidaymakers flying with Ryanair found themselves separated from their friends and family after opting not to pay for a specific seat. The budget airline found themselves under increasing pressure to explain why groups as large as 20 were being split across 20 rows. Customers accused the carrier of deliberately splitting up groups to make more money. Ryanair said this was not true and that it had not changed its policy with regards to seat allocation. It said all customers who did not book a specific seat had it randomly allocated.
The charge is becoming increasingly common in an industry in which airlines are relying more and more on extra charges to balance the books.
John-Lee Saez, Kayak’s travel expert, said: “The research shows that some airlines are considerably tougher on the wallet if you wish to reserve a seat. If you have to check in at the desk, you will often find that being polite and just asking can get you the seat you want – whether that is next to someone else you want to sit with, or a seat with extra legroom. But in many cases, if you are checking in automatically, or with an airline where the format is ‘first come, first served’ when you get on board, the only way to guarantee is to pay.
“Our advice is to do your research up front. Some airlines charge as little as nothing whilst others can cost as much as £70 extra for priority seating. Sometimes the comfort is worth the cash, but don’t get caught up with unnecessary charges if you’re happy to sit next to whoever on the flight.”
In response to the research, Ryanair’s chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs said: "Ryanair customers enjoy the lowest air fares in Europe, cheaper than other airlines' seat reservation fees.
"All our customers can choose to take a free randomly allocated seat, or choose reserved seats, which start from just £2, and our policy requires families (with kids under 12) to sit together, with one adult taking a reserved seat for just £4, and children given free of charge reserved seats to ensure that families are not and cannot be separated.”