When booking tickets online, many airlines charge extra to choose a specific seat, meaning that people have to pay more to guarantee sitting with their companion or group. If passengers choose not to buy specific seats they may still be able to sit together but it is not guaranteed.
It is the CAA’s view that young children or those with disabilities should be sat with those accompanying them wherever possible. You can find more information on how to arrange special assistance on our dedicated pages.
We recognise that passengers do not always want to swap seats at check in or when they board the plane, but may prefer to have the security of knowing that they will definitely be seated together from the outset.
We have seen cases where airlines have needed to change the aircraft type at late notice, where the configuration or availability of seats has resulted in passengers who have paid to be seated together to be allocated seats apart from each other. We suggest passengers contact their airline to check seating options and understand whether paying for seat allocation will guarantee that the members of their party will be able to sit together.
Families, children and infants
The seating of children close by their parents or guardians should be the aim of airline seat allocation procedures for family groups and large parties of children.
Young children and infants who are accompanied by adults should ideally be seated in the same seat row as the adult. Where this is not possible, children should be separated by no more than one seat row from accompanying adults. This is because the speed of an emergency evacuation may be affected by adults trying to reach their children.
Whenever a number of infants and children are travelling together the airline should make every effort to ensure that they can be readily supervised by the responsible accompanying adults.
Child seats and child restraint devices
Infants under the age of two need to be secured whenever the seat belt sign is on. This can be achieved through the use of a seat belt loop provided by the airline to secure the infant on an adult’s lap, or by using a child restraint device i.e. car type seat, or an alternative provided by the airline.
Passengers travelling with small children should contact their airline to discuss the safest option and to ensure that their preferred restraint devices is acceptable and appropriate for the aircraft type.
Seats by emergency exits
Some passengers may not be permitted to sit in a seat row next to an emergency exit. This is because if the emergency exit is needed, it is important the exit can be opened and the aircraft evacuated as quickly as possible.
The following passengers are among those who should not be allocated, or directed to, seats by emergency exits:
- Passengers with physical or mental impairment or disability to the extent that they would have difficulty in moving quickly if asked to do so.
- Passengers who have significant sight or hearing impairment to the extent that it might be difficult for them to respond to instructions quickly.
- Passengers who, because of age or sickness, have difficulty in moving quickly.
- Passengers who, because of physical size, have difficulty in moving quickly.
- Children (whether accompanied or not) and infants.
- Passengers travelling with animals, for example assistance dogs.
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