View Full Version : Paying to sit together

10th Sep 2004, 12:08

I've just booked a holiday and will be flying with First Choice Airways. me and my girlfriend were told by the travel agent that if we wanted to ensure that we were sitting together we would have to pay an extra 20! Is this the norm? I've never heard of it before as I thought that if you booked together you sat together.

We ended up paying the money as my girlfriend is a nervous flyer but I can't help feeling we were fleeced!

The same goes for taking my own skis with me on a flight. Is it true that the money actually goes to the tour operator and not the airline who do not charge for ski carriage???



10th Sep 2004, 15:02
You were fleeced. The travel agent gets commision for selling extras like "pre-booked" seats. The term "sitting together" is a very loose term indeed. You can have the isle between you and still be classed as "sitting together". The only way to garentee sitting together is by contacting the airline (First Choice special needs telephone number is 0870 757 2757) and requesting specific seats. There may be a small fee involved but not as high as the travel agents fee. The other wa is to arrive nice and early at the checkin desk. Flights are very, very rarley 100% pre- booked. They are more like 40% pre-booked.

Again call the airline on the above number with regards to the ski's

surely not
10th Sep 2004, 15:38
No you weren't fleeced if you wanted the peace of mind that even if you don't turn up at -4 hrs to STD you will have seats together. Quite obviously there are an finite number of seats on an a/c and without paying the fee you would have to be among the early check-ins to be reasonably sure of sitting together. If a lot of other pax have paid the 20 then there might not be many seats left allowing you all to sit together even if you check-in early.

Re the skis, you are correct that the money goes to the Tour Operator and not the airline. It doesn't guarantee carriage, and it doesn't prevent you paying for excess baggage either! My understanding is that the Tour Operators used to get commissions from the ski hire shops in the resorts, but as pax started to take their own skis with them the revenue declined so they started to charge for the privilege of taking your own skis. The airports, airlines and handling agents who have the *rse ache of getting the skis from c-in to the aircraft get nothing extra for their troubles.

10th Sep 2004, 17:23
The other wa is to arrive nice and early at the checkin desk

ahem, me and my family (4 total) showed three hours early for a flight to Faro from LGW and even then we couldn't sit anywhere near each other.

[had it's benefits though - like Mrs Words not moaning when I asked for a second G+T :ok: )

10th Sep 2004, 20:40
We had a similar experience with Air Canada when my MIL and nephew (8 year old!) were flying from Winnipeg to Toronto and onwards to Dublin. When we checked in (very early!!!) the seats that were allocated weren't together. They had to wait almost till the last minute before boarding to be reissued new seats together. Not very comforting (not to mention the stress involved) when an 8 year old is sat halfway down the plane from his guardian!:yuk:

10th Sep 2004, 21:52
Someone at FCA seems to have decided 10 is not a vast sum. Book seat only, 10 for a meal, 10 for legroom, now 10 to sit together what next ? 10 for a beer ? 10 for the toilet ? the list will grow, and while you are at it check out the excess baggage rates.

Final 3 Greens
11th Sep 2004, 07:27
The other option, in the future, is to get smart and start to make your own arrangements.

If you book scheduled with a full service carrier, such as BA, you can often request seats together and will not be fleeced. With BA in particualr, you can check in online 12 hours before (24 if you have an executive club card.)

The tour operators are experiencing a world of diminishing returns and are looking for ways of creating extra revenue streams, as woderick says.

Victims behave like victims, so next time, don't do that.

Do some internet research and package your own holiday - you may be surprised that you can often travel scheduled and stay in nice hotels for significantly less than the package you would have bought.

Our family (wife and I, 2 kids) are going to Malta for a 4 night break in November, cost of flights and 4* hotel for all of us is 644. Try buying that in a brochure and see how much it costs, if you can find a non standard duration break! Flights are with BA (GB.) ANd this one was dead easy, bought the flts and hotel together from a very expedient web site, if you know what I mean.

11th Sep 2004, 10:08
Travel agent didn't fleece you - they offered a service & choice to you. They can't force you to book them.

Look at the flip-side - what if you weren't offered the service, got checked in and discovered you were sitting in different bits of the cabin, then hear from other pax that their travel agent offered to prebook their seats for a tenner each - how peeved with your agent would you be then?

I am an agent and would much rather a hundred punters laugh at me & tell me it's a rip off to pay a tenner each for sitting together and decline my kind offer, than have one coming in after their jollies to have a winge about not being offered the service in the first place.

I personally have been at check-in at ETD -4 hours for a CUN charter which didn't have the option of prebooking and still the 2 of us couldn't get sat together.......we weren't even in the same cabin!

Finally - it's not just First Choice (tourop) doing this on packages which have charter flights.

You will find that JMC, Cosmos, Panorama, Manos, Airtours, Thomson, Olympic, Kosmar, Libra to name a few all charge AT LEAST 10 each for sitting together. I'm sure one of them charges 15.

cheers ;)


11th Sep 2004, 13:41
It wasn't so much the fact that I paid the money that bothered me...they asked us and we decided to do it....it was just whether the money is actually going to the airline and not the agent making a bit more money for a service that may have otherwie been free. If the airline gets the money and we get what we paid for then I'm more than happy with that!



12th Sep 2004, 07:11
A few years ago I worked as a Travel Agent in your part of the world.

I think someone may need to explain this commission thingy....

Firstly, an agent who books you a flight only either schedule or charter gets a big fat zero in commission. Thats right jack s**t.

The agent is set targets and the sale of the ticket is added to their total sales target for the week/month.

The Package Holiday. Commission is earned here. It is varrible depending which agency and tour op you are using.

eg.Thomas Cook will give high commission on booking their own brands and slightly less for say a TUI group product.

The type of commission we are talking about is 3 per person on the holiday. I have known 2 per person!
The only extras to earn commission was travel insurance upgrades that was 50p per person-often I'd put it though as free insurance then do the add on...it worked out cheaper than the basic insurance.

Sometimes airport car parking, will attract some sort of commission but again its pence not pounds.

The extras such as the add-ons to you package such as seats together, upgrades, meals, sea view room, balcony, building site rooms [coz the wife likes to watch the workmen ;)] are added to the holiday cost but the agent doesn't make any more commission by selling these products to you...he/she still makes a humble 3 per person on the holiday.

The branch itself of course makes several pounds from you via the tour op which the agents usually hide from you.

12th Sep 2004, 13:40
I presume with this surcharge-to-sit-together approach there must be some form of advanced seat allocation to enable it to work, which may explain why seats together are then in short supply even at check in opening. And out of school holiday times most parties are couples.

Only yesterday Ms WHBM :) and myself were booking an IT trip for next week. It happens to be with Thomas Cook (agency and airline) but could have been anybody. Was surprised at the number of surcharges, as we don't do packages very often. 10 for inflight meals (wonder how that's going to be administered) and also 1 "charity donation" to a charity I've never heard of. Excuse me, but charity giving is something I decide, not other people. Sheraton hotels do the same thing, just sneaked in at the bottom of the room bill, which I have always had taken off ever since I saw Sheraton making an advertising splash only for themselves out of the money being handed over.

Tiger : Those people you refer to as getting "jack s**t" for booking me a scheduled flight, do they not get a salary for doing their job ? Just like I do ?

12th Sep 2004, 17:03
The Travel Foundation (http://www.thetravelfoundation.org.uk) charity donation which you paid is, again like paying to sit together or for your inflight meals, an optional item.

If you don't know what the donation was for then why didn't you ask the agent at the time for an explanation, and if you still objected to then remove it? We have plenty of customers at our place who don't know about the foundation but when explained and given the website link for more info, are happy to help others.

As for your comment to Tiger re: salary for doing their job. Yes they do - but give some thought to the fact that the normal starting salary in travel retail is around the 8k mark please. Also it's not only the agent (the person) that gets no commission for selling a scheduled flight but also in many cases the agent (the shop) gets none either.

cheers ;)


12th Sep 2004, 17:34
WHBM I wondered the same thing, don't know how Tom does it but First Choice clock you at check in from the reservation computer, then sit all the non eaters at the back. The cabin staff are then told that all aft of a certain row are not eating. Bob's your uncle.
As a penalty for not having the delicious repast you get to sit at the back in the noise and the smell from the toilets (if 757)

12th Sep 2004, 19:57

Thank you for solving the mystery in advance. Good to escape the 757s long-fuselage rear-end whiplash in turbulence, too. It only remains to wonder how they ensure that the number of non-diners is a number divisible by 6 .....

Pan Am used to do a similar thing years ago (1970s) with a "Thrift Class" at the back of 707s on California to Hawaii, with normal complimentary meals in the main Y cabin but "Meals available for purchase" in Thrift Class.

12th Sep 2004, 20:15
i was under the impression that CAA regs require family groups to be seated together (although I accept that this is not necessarily the same as next to each other). So should they charge to do what they are already legally required to do?

13th Sep 2004, 09:09
I dont think its a CAA reg. Children are required to sit with an adult (unless they are traveling as an UNMIN).

Tour operators use the words "Prebook you seats together" but together can mean with in one seat of each other. Worst case, you are in row 27F and the person you are traveling with is in row 26F. That is still classed as sitting together. Would you still pay 10 for that???

Again if you turn up early and are within the first 50 to checkin, you will most likely be able to choose your seat. In all the years of working for a handling agent I never saw a 100% presat flight.

Nick Riviera
13th Sep 2004, 12:29
How would the airline react if a couple travelling with, for example, a 2 year old and a 3 year old, were told that they had to sit in 4 seats spread through the cabin? Surely they would endeavour to find seats so that each toddler is accompanied.

surely not
13th Sep 2004, 18:57
Nick Riviera, it isn't always possible to please the last pax to check-in regardless of how many offspring they have. I remember getting a real ear bashing from a normally placid No1 when she returned from her flight. She was calling our handling agent all manner of names re split families, children in emergency exit seats etc.

I asked if she was willing to wait whilst I got all the details from the H/agent and went to find out what had happened. It turned out that on this flight there were very few non family groups and as the check-in sequence numbers showed they had done all possible to keep only able bodied pax in the exit rows but apart from about 6 pax they were all family groups. Then the seats together ran out about 2/3rds of the way through c-in, and there weren't any non family groups who could be re seated to overcome the problem.

In short everything possible had been done, but the pax who showed up last had no option but to be split. With juggling they managed to have 1 adult + 1 child but not families together.

It is rare for an airline or handling agent to deliberately give pax reason to write in and complain!

14th Sep 2004, 08:15
'surely not' leads to an interesting point,

Is it legal to have children in exit rows? From what I remember of the US domestic flights I've been on, exit rows have to be occupied by people over 15. Is there a ruling in Europe? Obviously, it's undesirable, to say the least, to have the exit rows filled with, say, one adult and two young children, but what on earth can you do if the alternative means splitting family groups? Especially if you then end up with a child having to sit next to strange adult?

Are there SOPs to cover this, or am I cynical when I feel that is the sort of thing left to CC to sort out so that if anything goes wrong, the airline isn't to blame, but the crew are?

surely not
14th Sep 2004, 14:58
radeng, the rules as I understand them are:-
a, no children or infants to occupy seats designated as Emergency exit seats, which means no one under 12 on a child fare ticket.
b. no one with impaired movement i.e. stiff legs, bad backs etc
c. no one who is deemed, by check-in or the cabin crew, to be physically incapable of opening the exits i.e. old enough but frail
d. no wheelchair or physically or mentally disabled pax.
e. no pregnant women.
f. No unaccompanied minors

Each airline has seating charts which designate the rows and the computer systems shouldn't allow an infant or child to be seated in these rows. Manual check-in a different bal game.

A most enjoyable moment at check-in is when Mr Painintheneck insists that they have an exit seat because they have a problem with their leg which has to be kept extended. ' I'm sorry sir that cannot be done for safety reasons'

14th Sep 2004, 17:14
surely not,

Which Mr painintheneck? There's always so many of them......

surely not
14th Sep 2004, 19:40
No there aren't that many, but they do stick in the memory when they surface :D

14th Sep 2004, 21:37
You might think that travelling with a two year old would make sure you sat together, but no. BMI put my two year old son on the opposite side of the aisle to my wife, in a different row. No one would swop. They then parked a meal cart between them and served him a cooked breakfast that included scrambled eggs. Apparently some of it went in his mouth........

15th Sep 2004, 07:09
For ABP seats remeber CODPIE


None of the above should be sat in an emergency exit row.

When I used to work for a handling agent, what we used to find was, Mrs and Mrs Imondeathsdoorstep would arrive at the checkin and present their tickets. Together they would have a combined age of 260 and Mr Imondeathsdorrstep has just had his hip replaced. Becasue Ted's hip was replaced they booked extra leg room through the travel agent. They are the last two passengers to checkin because it has taken them so long to walk from the carpark. Lukily there are 4 empty seats. The two together with extra leg room and 1 in row 3 and 1 in row 26. Now becasue the travel agent didnt check their suitibility and just sold the seats to them (if we sold a seat at checkin we got commission for it. So Im assuming that travel agents do aswell), we have to split them up and take the ear bashing for it.

Final 3 Greens
15th Sep 2004, 18:52
....and they are not entitiled to a refund either, from some operators, what a racket.

surely not
15th Sep 2004, 19:34
Refund for what F3G? The ticket states it will carry the owner from point A to point B. Nowhere does it state that they will sit together, have a window seat, not sit near the toilets or any other part of travelling.

15th Sep 2004, 21:16
I think what F3G is referring to is that if you pay a surcharge for a seat sold as an "extra legroom seat" (the fact that it is an exit row seat, or that there may be mobility requirements, is only explained to a lesser extent), and if the airline then declines your having that seat, the terms state you cannot claim a refund of the surcharge.

Unfortunately junior travel agency staff often don't understand the situation (sorry if you're in the travel trade and a consummate professional, but it's true), and the punters certainly don't understand. I don't think many conceal their mobility (there's no point if they know they are going to be declined at the airport).

15th Sep 2004, 23:27
BMI put my two year old son on the opposite side of the aisle to my wife, in a different row. No one would swop.

Good grief, no offence SLF 3, but if I had someone's 2 yr old placed next to me without his mum, I would be the FIRST one out of my seat, I wouldn't wait to be asked! :D

surely not
16th Sep 2004, 08:35
WHBM, how is it the fault of the airline if a passenger doesn't volounteer information which was pertinent at the time of booking?

16th Sep 2004, 18:43
I never said it was the fault of the airline. It isn't.

I was saying it is the fault of the tour operator for selling exit row seats as if they were extra legroom seats without adequately explaining the extra obligation, and the fault of travel agencies for allowing their staff to sell these seats to the public without adequate training in what are the requirements and how they need to cover this with passengers.

But hey, it's another tenner each on their turnover rather than someone else's, so what the hell ....

30th Sep 2004, 13:11
Well, we're back from the trip described above (Gatwick to Dalaman on TCX).

And after the posts above, and my others on the subject of charging for exit row seating, guess what ... got allocated the exit row both ways (same seat numbers too) although had not paid the supplement. It seemed to have been preallocated.

Any PPRuNers working in TCX allocations who sussed me ? :)

Ckin Gal
4th Oct 2004, 19:59
1) a must admit that if the flt is booked full then we make a effort to fill the exit seats first with able bodied pax.

2)If pax who have pre-booked their seats then we will ring the gate with seat changes for people who have been split.

With ref to the first point i have had many phone calls from the ckin supervisor to say that they have done their best to seat able bodied pax in the exit and to pass the message onto the crew. unfortunately on some of our flts this is very difficult. (jer)

4th Oct 2004, 20:29
i think its pretty much first come first served but the airline i work for will always endeavour to seat families together and will block off seats for this before the flight opens for checkin.

To get the exit rows you just need to get lucky as 90% of people are either tall, big, got bad legs or some other reason why they need this seat...although VS charge 50 for the privilige...ive heard