Flights: ‘Best’ method to get seats together ‘without paying’

From nervous flyers to those travelling with children, sitting together can be a top priority. Many airlines are now charging passengers for “seat selection”, which not only includes things such as extra leg room or priority boarding but even goes so far as to decide whether you can sit next to your travel companions or not.

However, there are some tricks holidaymakers can utilise to get seats together for free.

Jessie Moore, founder of the luxury travel blog Pocket Wanderings (@PocketWanderings) spoke to Express.co.uk to reveal the “best way” to do this.

She explained: “By far the best way of getting seats together without having to pay is to check in online as soon as it opens.”

This is particularly true for airlines that offer online check-in, which means you can confirm your place on the flight before even arriving at the airport.

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The longer you leave it to check in, however, the more likely it is that seats will begin to fill up, thus reducing your chance of being seated together.

Some airlines, such as British Airways, even allow passengers to select their desired seat for free if they check in within the 24 hours before departure.

Others, such as easyJet, might not offer you a choice, but will tend to place travel companions together.

Jessie continued: “Despite the suggestion that airlines will split your group up if you don’t pay for seat selection, they generally will actually try to keep you together – if the availability is there.

Jessie added: “It’s also worth knowing that some airlines guarantee that children under 12 will be seated next to at least one adult from your group, while other airlines do their utmost to ensure this is the case.”

However, there is one airline exception. Jessie explained: “The one exception to this is Ryanair, who do make it extremely difficult for you to sit with your group without paying.”

Ryanair does offer a seat selection option for customers, or random allocation for free. The airline’s website explained: “With reserved seating you can choose to select and purchase a seat when making a reservation online, via the My Bookings section or during online check-in.

“Customers can select and buy their preferred seat online from the time of booking right up to two hours before each booked flight. For convenience and peace of mind, customers can check-in for flights 60 days in advance of both departure flights by purchasing a seat or if they have a Flexi Plus ticket.  Customers can select where they would like to sit and choose to sit together if travelling with a group.”

If you choose not to purchase a seat, you will be able to check in 48 hours in advance of each departure flight for bookings made prior to January 28, 2021, and 24 hours in advance for bookings made as of January 28, 2021, and a seat will be allocated to you (free of charge).”

If sitting together is a top priority, but you think your airline is likely to split the party up unless you pay, Nicky Kelvin, head of The Points Guy UK, suggests making plans as soon as possible.

He previously told Express.co.uk: “If having seats together on a plane is a top priority, then it’s vital to book your flights as far out as possible.

“This ensures that there are still plenty of seats available together before the plane starts to book up with other passengers.

“If you do happen to end up booking last minute, I would recommend calling the airline directly to see if there are any open seats not visible online.

“Often, airlines block out certain rows so there is a good chance that there still might be seats available for you and your children if you ask.”

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