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BA deliberately separating parties to fuel seat charges?

BA deliberately separating parties to fuel seat charges?

Old Nov 4, 18, 12:55 am
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BA deliberately separating parties to fuel seat charges?

Another Anti BA article in the Sunday Times this morning

The article sights couples deliberately split up on auto-allocation on hand bag only fares and single passengers put ‘mid row’

Do you think there is any truth in this ?.....
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Old Nov 4, 18, 1:01 am
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If there is a manipulative pattern at play, I think we would have read about it here on FlyerTalk.
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Old Nov 4, 18, 1:01 am
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Whether there is truth in this or not, if you want to guarantee seats together then the simple solution is to pay for them. If you are buying HBO then be prepared to be sat where the airline tells you to sit. Some HBO LH fares are so cheap, paying for seats still gives you a good deal.

Sadly just another example of BA bashing. Does the article comment on similar practises from other airlines?
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Old Nov 4, 18, 1:19 am
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If there are two seats together in one row or one empty middle seat in another, why would BA not fill the middle seat with a single passenger to preserve the two together?

For the HBO passenger, BA are complying with the contract they entered in to. In short, the HBO passenger played and lost because if they didn't want to risk being allocated a middle seat, they could book a plus fare or pay for seat selection.

Disappointing The Sunday Times is competing with the Daily Mail on non-news. Soon we'll have no newspapers to choose from in the lounge.
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Old Nov 4, 18, 1:37 am
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Originally Posted by Prospero View Post
If there is a manipulative pattern at play, I think we would have read about it here on FlyerTalk.
Would we? I would have thought it was a subject less likely to be of interest to single business travellers or passengers with status who would be more likely to get free seating for their party.

The CAA have clearly been sufficiently concerned to look into this and published an initial report last week with further work to follow. The research of who had not paid and then been split from their party put BA on a par with other low cost carriers like Thomas Cook, Jet 2 and Easyjet but well behind Ryanair and (interestingly) Emirates in the chances of being split up.

That of course doesn't mean there is manipulation, but the CAA does highlight a lack of transparency when booking (no great surprise when dealing with airlines I imagine).

http://publicapps.caa.co.uk/docs/33/...ateOCT2018.pdf
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Old Nov 4, 18, 1:54 am
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In the end it probably doesn't matter much whether or not it is happening but rather that many people will believe it is. No doubt if it isn't the case BA will see itself as a victim here (just as with the data breach) but at the moment BA portray themselves publicy as a company for whom cost cutting and maximising revenue is in their DNA and who manage to be portrayed as a company who frequently make it difficult for customers to obtain redress if they do muck up (lots of threads here). I think what is becoming more of an issue is that for many BA is no longer a company they trust to do the right thing.

So whether or not this is going on plenty will believe it is and are not likely to believe BA if they say they aren't. BA could reverse this trend in perception but as Ryanair have found it will take time and ot be easy.

Last edited by pomkiwi; Nov 4, 18 at 1:24 am
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Old Nov 4, 18, 1:02 am
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Perfectly reasonable business practice to fill up unpopular seats with bargain fares. It's what I would expect to happen on other carriers I use, and I don't see a problem even if it is true.

If if you want a seat allocation and you done have status, pay for it.
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Old Nov 4, 18, 1:03 am
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Here is a short extract from the story today:

Originally Posted by Sunday Times
Couples and families booking long-haul flights through British Airways are being asked to pay extra to ensure they are able to sit together.In one recent case, a couple on a transatlantic flight were automatically allocated seats several rows apart — and had to pay more than £100 to be able to sit close to each other, moving to a seat that had been unoccupied anyway.

That specific example mentioned above - and of course we're never going to get the details but genuinely that is all the details we have - seems to relate to a Basic longhaul fare. There were 2 other examples in the story, one of someone complaining that they didn't get free advance seat selection when travelling with a 14 year old (so it may be that Theoretical Seating would eventually have put them together anyway) and a case from AA! BA's response was to flatly deny the premise of the story (that the airline was splitting up passengers in a cynical move to extract money out of them) and BA went on to say "Some 98% of families are seated together by the airline. Our seat selection process is in line with 15 other airlines flying out of the UK". That would be a reference to Amadeus Seating and Theoretical Seating, which are implemented via the Altéa software and is not at all propriety to BA.

I also think this story is rubbish, I suspect the journalist concerned heard of a case near to home (maybe a friend of his) and wove the story around one single example. What we do know to be true is
- generally BA's flights go out full
- basic fares are advertised as "no free seat selection at all" even at OLCI unless you have status
- that there are a huge proportion of the airline's business which is repeat business and therefore consists of Bronze plus shiny cardholders who take the best options
- in common with almost all large airlines some good seats are held back, so leaving it to OLCI will often come up with the dregs
- not in common with all airlines, Theoretical Seating actually does a pretty good job in keeping groups together, I think FT now gets few complaints about this than it used to do
- if it's important, pay for it, if it isn't then don't (and ideally don't moan about it). That applies to upgrades, lounges, seating, flight timings, ticket flexibility, LGW v LHR and so on.

For the specifics here there is a lot we don't know, but if they checked in at the dot of T-24, and didn't print their boarding passes, there would have been a good chance that the seats concerned would have come up a few hours later. What isn't often considered in these stories is what the other 301 passengers were getting up to, we all live in a nice bubble here So maybe the empty seat referred to is someone who decided to select another seat, took a POUG, decided not to travel, had an irrop, got into a drunken stupor and overslept and so on. Equally the seat may not have been empty (so allocated to a non status passenger who hasn't checked in) but the airport or OLCI sold the seat to them because they were willing to pay for it. Or maybe the couple here just checked in at the last moment Or of course one of the passengers had status and was on a separate booking.

But fundamentally, I don't think we've seen any evidence to back up this story. Ryanair is fairly open that their seating algorithm does game couples and families this way, and it is easy to spot in real life. This forum has minutely followed how TS works, and has a very long thread about it in the Dashboard, so I think like Prospero it's beyond unlikely that this would have slipped under our collective radar.
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Old Nov 4, 18, 1:11 am
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Well said CWS!

If sitting together is that important then pay for it. If price conscience then accept that you may not get the best seats. Which is what happens in many walks of life.

From my own experience, my OH insists that we sit together. I therefore had to either stump up £500 for 3 return seats in CW or find another way. I found an alternative that has cost a lot more than £500 but much more pleasurable!
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Old Nov 4, 18, 1:17 am
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Originally Posted by simons1 View Post
Would we? I would have thought it was a subject less likely to be of interest to single business travellers or passengers with status who would be more likely to get free seating for their party.

The CAA have clearly been sufficiently concerned to look into this and published an initial report last week with further work to follow. The research of who had not paid and then been split from their party put BA on a par with other low cost carriers like Thomas Cook, Jet 2 and Easyjet but well behind Ryanair and (interestingly) Emirates in the chances of being split up.

That of course doesn't mean there is manipulation, but the CAA does highlight a lack of transparency when booking (no great surprise when dealing with airlines I imagine).

http://publicapps.caa.co.uk/docs/33/...ateOCT2018.pdf
Thanks for sharing the CAA Report.

The reasons for the CAA review are described in p13 of the report
2.1 The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) previously commissioned research on unfair terms and conditions in aviation, exploring the extent to which consumers feel that they have been treated in a way that is fair and reasonable in relation to airlines’ terms and conditions. A key finding was that respondents felt having to pay to choose a seat in advance of the day of the flight was one of the top three most unfair aspects. This was unexpected, as it arose organically through the research – it was not a question which was specifically asked or highlighted to participants.

2.2 In addition to this, the CAA was being contacted by concerned consumers highlighting that they thought that
having to pay to choose a seat is unfair – particularly when people are travelling with children – and asking for our advice.

2.3 We therefore decided to undertake a review of current practice. We wanted to find out more about how seats are allocated, if charging a separate add-on fee for reserved seating on top of the ticket price was harming the collective interests of consumers, whether the practice was being applied in a fair and consistent manner, and whether it was having detrimental effects. We considered:
  • the legal context, along with established guidance and good practice;
  • how different airlines approach the practice of allocated seating; and
  • evidence of how consumers experience the extent and nature of allocated seating charges.
p15 Scope
2.7 The scope of our review encompassed the process for reserving seats for groups travelling together. We excluded other types of seat-buying, such as seats with extra legroom or priority boarding, which can also include the
opportunity to select specific seats.

2.8 We defined a group as two or more people travelling together, who booked their tickets as part of the same transaction.

2.9 We defined being seated together as sitting next to each other in the same row, or immediately across an aisle. For larger groups (such as three or more people, where the group would take up more than one row of seats) we defined groups as being seated together if they are seated next to some members of the group and no more than one seat row or aisle away from other members of the group
pp19-20 Quantitative data: Survey of recent fliers
Table 1: Chances of being separated if not paying extra to guarantee seats by airline – based on the CAA research

Airline / Total respondents who flew with this airline / People who didn't pay more to sit together and WERE separated from their group
BA / 456 / 15%
U2 / 930 / 15%
EK / 100 / 22%
BE / 144 / 12%
LS / 343 / 16%
FR / 617 / 35%
MT / 275 / 15%
BY / 383 / 12%
VS / 131 / 18%
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Old Nov 4, 18, 1:29 am
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I'm a bit fed up with the so-called 'race-to-the-bottom BA bashing' (although they do have plenty of other issues to get right), and the constant whine about 'having paid that much for a CW fare I have to cough up another wad to select a seat'. If seat selection was included, then the ticket price would be higher. I see the ability to choose to pay less if you are not bothered about where you sit, or take baggage, as a good thing. Perhaps the article could have been written:

Couples and families booking long-haul flights through British Airways are able to pay a lower fare if they are willing to risk not sitting together. In one recent case, a couple on a transatlantic flight were automatically allocated seats several rows apart — and saved more than £100 instead of paying extra to sit close to each other.
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Old Nov 4, 18, 1:37 am
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...which is exactly how BA can get away with repeatedly shafting their customers.
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Old Nov 4, 18, 1:39 am
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Originally Posted by simonrp84 View Post
...which is exactly how BA can get away with repeatedly shafting their customers.
Can you elaborate please
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Old Nov 4, 18, 1:54 am
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On the other hand...
Friends of mine flew BA to JFK last month, booked through Cunard (came home on QM2). I don't know their exact ticket class but as they had cruise luggage it certainly wasn't a hand baggage fare. At OLCI husband and wife find themselves in separate rows with no free seats side by side available. Managed to swap on board as a kind fellow passenger was happy to move.
I'd have normally been sceptical of this newspaper story, were it not for my friends experience a couple of weeks ago.
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Old Nov 4, 18, 1:54 am
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In that CAA report referenced above, there are some details about how airlines work seat selection. Presumably to preserve commercial confidentiality, the airlines were not named, but one glance of this, and knowing a bit about TS and a bit about BA, means I'm 100% sure it is BA:
The third airline reported that its system automatically allocates seats to passengers 96 hours before departure for all bookings that include: unaccompanied minors travelling alone; passengers with infants; and any booking with four or more passengers booked under a single booking reference irrespective of whether or not that reference contains any infant or child. Before departure at 72 hours and 6 hours, additional checks are conducted manually to ensure any remaining passengers without seat allocation are provided with suitable seats. Special priority is given to groups of passengers of two or more with the objective to seat them together wherever possible, although this is subject to availability.
and further on, I'm 99% sure it's BA (plus almost none of the the other airlines have frequent flyer schemes):
One airline said they do this for passengers travelling with children and those in groups of more than nine. A 'robotic' tries to allocate seats together, and if it cannot it is flagged for manual attention. Other passengers are ranked according to business rules on a flight – and taking into account additional parameters such as whether the booking is confirmed and whether space is available, whether the passenger is a member of a frequent flier scheme, passengers such as wheelchair users or those with specific medical needs, and the number of passengers in the booking.
Contrast with what must be Ryanair:
One airline said it assigns seats randomly if passengers do not pay to select specific seats. Arguably, the chances of being sat together when allocation is random are very low.
The status of this report is that they have put some findings out now but want to go on to further studies and perhaps a ranking of airlines against their performance. They also want funding to investigate robotics such as Theoretical Seating.
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