Ryanair Boeing 737 8 AS RE SIZED 750

Airlines might be using an algorithm to separate you from your fellow travellers

Thursday, November 29, 2018

A recent survey by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) accuses some airlines of using an algorithm that assigns separate seats to groups of travellers, families and couples in order to force them to pay more to be able to travel in adjacent seats.

CAA Investigation on aircraft seat allocation

The survey conducted by the Civil Aviation Authority dates back to last year and involves 4,200 passengers and 10 airlines. It had already been published by The Independent in February. The British newspaper reported that Margot James, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, in her address to the Communications Committee, described the software used to allocate seats as "problematic to the detriment of the population" and accused airlines of using it to increase their revenue.

The report shows that when you travel with some of the companies investigated, the chances of being separated from your partner, children or parents are much greater. The average is 18%, while with Ryanair the percentage rises up to 35%. Emirates comes close with 22% and among the minor offenders you find Flybe and TUI Airlines, with a 12% probability of flying in non-adjacent seats.

Ryanair might be tricking you into paying for choosing a seat

This also affects flight safety

The news has another significant aspect, that of security. According to another survey called "Emergency Evacuation of Commercial Passenger Aircraft" conducted by the Flight Operations Group of the Royal Aeronautical Society, the separation of passengers travelling together could have negative consequences for safety on board. The assignment of passengers is one of seventeen points to improve safety levels in case of evacuation, and the division of travelling groups could slow down the process.

Airlines say seat allocation has always been done automatically and randomised

At this stage, Ryanair and all the other airlines have rejected the accusations simply by denying the intentionality of increasing their revenues in this way and underlining the total randomness of the allocation of seats on their flights.

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