Britain's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said it was beginning a review into airlines' seating policies, including whether some operators were deliberating splitting up groups of passengers travelling together. Some customers have complained that they have been seated away from their friends or family in order to force them to pay extra for allocated seating.
"We will be looking into how airlines decide where to seat passengers that have booked as part of a group and whether any airlines are pro-actively splitting up groups of passengers when, in fact, they could be sat together," said CAA Chief Executive Andrew Haines.
"We will not hesitate to take any necessary enforcement action should it be required at the end of the review."
In a survey of passengers from 10 airlines conducted by pollster YouGov released on Saturday, those who flew with Irish low-cost airline Ryanair were most likely to report being separated from their group when not paying more to sit together. Ryanair said it was happy to participate.
"Our policy is very clear for our customers and seats can be purchased from just 2 euros and kids travelling in families get free seats," said a spokeswoman.
Rival easyJet said it would cooperate with the CAA review and that it tried to keep groups together.
"Unlike some airlines, if passengers choose not to pay to select their seats, easyjet's seating system is programmed to try and seat families together when they check-in online by using an algorithm," the firm said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the "skyrocketing" costs of expanding airport infrastructure must be controlled to keep flight tickets affordable, the boss of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) warned yesterday. Alexandre de Juniac called for more modest developments to keep construction costs down and avoid landing customers with higher prices which would hit demand. De Juniac cited the proposed 14 billion pound ($19.8 billion) cost of a third runway at London's Heathrow Airport and the construction of a fifth terminal at Changi Airport in Singapore as prime examples of vastly expensive projects.
"The cost of infrastructure is skyrocketing," he told reporters ahead of the Singapore Airshow this week.
"When we look at the numbers of Heathrow for the third runway, we are very, very, very worried. Even the numbers for T5 in Singapore are very high," he added, without disclosing a figure for Changi Airport's expansion.
"We would like, for instance, to avoid big projects in which we see overruns because the architecture is fantastic, wonderful but it's very costly ... we have to be more modest," De Juniac said without naming any airport.
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