Getting Fleeced by Thomson and BA on “Select Your Seat” Charges

being charged to sit together on planes

I’m so pleased that the CAA is launching an investigation into charges levied by airlines to allow families to sit together.

Honestly, I think it’s one of the biggest rackets going.

BA Select Your Seat: Ripoff #1

Last summer, I flew with Flea from London Heathrow to LA. There were only two of us on the booking, and we were flying with BA, in business class. This means there are two seats on each aisle and four seats in the centre of the cabin.

Despite booking around six months ahead, when it came time to confirm our seat reservations, 30 days ahead of the flight, what do you know? Flea was seated a row behind me, on the other side of the aisle.  Which – if you think about it – means not only was I sitting on my own, but so was Flea, and so was the guy sitting next to me.

According to the CAA, around a third of families are split up on flights. The airlines say it’s completely unintentional, that their systems will seat families together wherever possible.


BA wanted to charge £62 per person to request seats next to one another. If we’d both paid that, on both outward and inbound flights, that means an additional cost of almost £250.

Given I’d already spent several thousand pounds on flights and car hire with BA, you can see why I was a bit miffed.

Fortunately I checked the airline’s regulations and because Flea was under 12 at the time of our outbound flight, she had to be seated next to an adult in the party.

I double checked with BA on Twitter and was told that we this was definitely the policy, and seats would be allocated appropriately at check-in.

No matter what the circumstances, Flea and I would be seated together. So why did the computer system separate a child from the only adult travelling on the same booking? And then ask me to pay to guarantee seats I was already entitled to?

TUI select your seat florida

TUI Select Your Seat: Ripoff #2

Later the same year, I flew with my parents and Flea to Florida with TUI, on a Thomson flight.

This time, we booked fairly late and as it was a package trip, we took the flights we were offered. So I wasn’t surprised when it came to check in. The online ‘select your seat’ tool showed both inbound and outbound flights as being full, and our family were spread across three rows.

There wasn’t a single seat I could request to put us all on the same row, or even on adjacent rows.

Naturally, given the option, I’d like to sit near to Flea. But that’s not the only reason we want to be seated as a group.

My Dad has COPD, is partially sighted, and has mobility issues. You can see why I might want to be seated near to him, so I can help if it’s needed. Also my Dad really needs an aisle seat. He doesn’t have the mobility to be manoeuvring in and out of a centre seat.

The email from TUI suggested upgrades were available, via the call centre. I called and explained the situation. It took about 20 minutes of back and forth, but eventually the call centre agent managed to find us upgrade seats on the outbound flight and economy seats on the flight home.

We weren’t all together but we were in two pairs. The total cost was around £140. Ouch, right?

Still, needs must.

Except — was it entirely necessary?

On our Thomson flight home from Florida, there were a grand total of 81 passengers on our flight. It was so quiet that the cabin crew sat along the back rows of the plane, watching movies.

We had an entire row to ourselves – each. We could have taken four or five rows each, if we’d wanted.

So I am absolutely perplexed as to why the TUI online booking system didn’t allocate my family seats that were together.

Because – demonstrably – THEY WERE AVAILABLE.

This wasn’t a case of, “oh, the computer made a mistake but the flight was full, and we can’t fix it”. This was a case of “the computer set out to seat you separately, and then invited you to pay to sit together”.

To make matters worse, this wasn’t just a computer error. It was compounded by the fact that the call centre staff clearly gave me incorrect information. They told me it was impossible to get four seats together. That the flight was very busy. That the best they could do was give us two pairs of seats, which I’d need to pay for.

None of which was true.

I complained to TUI after we got home, but never got a response.

I’m not sure what the legality is around airlines charging families to sit together. But I can certainly tell you it FEELS like we’re getting fleeced here. I can’t helping thinking this is just a sneaky way for airlines to bump up ticket revenue without increasing their headline prices.

Is it just me? Or have you also been ripped off by airline select your seat options for families? 



Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. 4th February 2018 / 6:44 pm

    I would make a bigger noise about that Florida flight if I were you. That’s absolutely despicable. We travel EasyJet between Israel and London and so far we’ve always been seated together without paying to choose our seats. I do always check in online as early as possible to make it easy for them. Otoh, my daughter is only 9 so we’re covered by the law for another 3 years. After that I guess we’ll have to decide whether to pay the extra when booking, or not.

  2. 5th February 2018 / 1:50 pm

    This makes me so mad Sally. Maddie, at 13, could technically end up not seated with us. Given that she has type 1, she may well need to sit with another known adult all her life, because there are times – particularly in the air – when she needs help with a hypo. There does need to be more of a law about this. Quite honestly, no child of any age should be forced to sit next to an adult he or she doesn’t know. I’m pretty sure there are laws around what constitutes a child, and that they apply to child protection…

  3. Fee Horne
    8th February 2018 / 9:57 pm

    Re-reading this, it occurred to me that this issue with the Thomson flight might have been the block booking of seats by package holiday companies that then get released at the very last moment when the holidays to which they have been allocated haven’t been sold? Just a thought. The alternative of course being that your initial instinct was right and they are just trying to scam as much cash as they can out of passengers!!

    • Sally
      24th February 2018 / 8:36 pm

      You could be right, but it’s disappointing to get that response and then not have a response to a query afterwards. And I find it hard to believe that 80% of seats were allocated 30 days prior to travel, and then released at the last moment.

  4. Anne James
    27th February 2019 / 12:54 am

    I have booked with Thompson, now TUI before and never been asked to choose my seat at a later date rather than when I booked the holiday. This time however we booked our holiday a year in advance and payed extra for “choose your seat”. Tui sent an email to remind us to choose our seats but unfortunately I was in hospital and when I got home there were no seats available together. We had to have one in front of the other. I complained to TUI as I would certainly not have chosen these seats, I asked that they refund the money I had paid but they just said that “extras”were not refundable. So in fact we have paid for an extra which is a rip of because we got nothing extra, we got what was left. How can seats for two people on different rows be classed as an extra. Everyone on a flight has to sit on a seat, why call it an extra. We fly on the 3rd March to Barbados and for the first time ever, I am not looking forward to our flight.b