Plane greedy – Are airlines holding families to ransom?

Update 03 February 2018. The CAA is to investigate airlines and seating allocations. Interestingly you will see below that in August 2017 it told me that this wasn’t a problem. It seems to have changed its mind! Finally, after complaints from consumer groups and others it is to investigate the practice of charging for people to sit together.

Aeroplane in blue sky text - CAA to investigate airlines' charges

Many airlines introduced paying for seat reservations on flights some years ago. Airlines say this is because some customers want to ensure that they are near the loo, by a window, or in the middle if they get travel sick etc. Of course there’s also paying over the odds for legroom seats too! Remember when you could get them for free just by asking at the desk?!

Update 05/02/18 Travelled recently? Have your say on the CAA consultation regarding seating arrangements. The consultation is open for one month. The CAA has said that it depends on the number of responses it gets as to when the results will be published but it expects it to be late Summer/Autumn.

So, what are the legal rules about seat reservations?

EU Regulation (EU) 965/2012
This regulatation states that if a child travels with an accompanying adult in the same class of cabin, the child should be seated in the same seat row segment as the accompanying adult. Where this is not possible, the child should be seated no more than one seat row or aisle away.

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is responsible for aviation rules and regulations in Europe and their document known as Annex IV (PART-OPS) says:
CAT.OP.MPA.165 Passenger seating
“The operator shall establish procedures to ensure that passengers are seated where, in the event that an emergency evacuation is required, they are able to assist and not hinder evacuation of the aircraft.”

Civil Aviation Authority guidance
The CAA states it has published guidance material for UK airlines explaining how to comply with the above rule, part of which says that family groups should be seated together.

“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.”

The CAA says it receives very few complaints relating to seating. A CAA spokesperson said

“On the whole we are satisfied that UK airlines comply with their obligations to seat family groups together. It is important though that passengers are made aware of rights during the booking process. Our advice to passengers is clear, family groups do not have to pay for reserved seating in order to guarantee they sit together. Airlines are obliged to sit children in the same seat row as an accompanying adult during the boarding process. Where that is not possible, (e.g. Boeing 737s or Airbus 320s, where cabins are configured into rows of three seats either side of the single aisle and more than three people are travelling together) the child should be no more than one seat row away under EU rules. The CAA works closely with UK airlines to ensure they understand this obligation.”

05/02/18 Asked for clarity on this change in view the CAA did not provide a comment.

So, how do major airlines compare when allocating seats for adults with children?

Airline Short haul from & up to long haul Reserving seats
BA £7 £20 Free to gold/silver members at booking, Bronze week before flying, anyone 24 hours before free allocation
Thomas Cook £10 £22 Free allocation at check-in
Thomson £9.50 £15.50 Free allocation to anyone 7 days before flying
Monarch £3 to £11 £11 Free to Vantage Club gold members incl. legroom, 24 hours before free allocation
Easyjet from £1.99 to £21.99 Free allocation at check in and to those with Flexi tickets & easyJet Plus cardholders)
Ryanair £8 or £13 or £15 1 adult must pay €4 so children get free reserved seat. Max. 4 children for each adult per booking get free seat reserved. Anyone free at 4 days 2 hrs before flying

Ryanair aeroplane over fields text CAA to investigate airline charges for you to sit with your party

British Airways
A spokesperson for BA said “We prioritise seating families travelling with children together, which we organise a few days before online check-in opens. We will always make sure than any child under 12 is seated with an adult from their group.”

Thomas Cook
A spokesperson for Thomas Cook Airlines said: “We always give seating priority to families flying with children to make sure that at least one accompanying adult is always seated with a child. To guarantee the whole family is seated together, families have the option of paying for seat selection.”

A Thomas Cook spokesperson said “We always try to seat customers travelling together next to each other wherever possible, with priority given to families travelling with children. If a customer has chosen not to use the pre-booking service and, in very rare circumstances, their child is initially allocated a seat away from them it will be automatically re-assigned.”

A Monarch spokesperson said “Monarch will always try to sit families together and a child (2-15 years) will never be sat without an accompanying adult. During peak periods, it may be necessary to split groups/families, but a child will always be sat with an accompanying adult from the same group/family.”

An Easyjet spokesperson said “If passengers choose not to pay to select their seats our seating systems will always aim to seat families together when they check-in online. If a passenger does leave checking in until close to the time of departure and all of the seats have been allocated to other passengers, we will try to allocate as many of the family together as we can at the airport and if necessary will ask other passengers if they are prepared to move once they are onboard the plane.”

A Ryanair spokesperson said of the mandatory charge, introduced in October 2016:“This way adults can choose where to seat their children. This will also allow adults to check-in for their flight 60 days before departure. It will not be mandatory for any other adults or teenagers in the booking to reserve a seat; however they may choose to do so.”

Comparing Ryanair equality
Does Ryanair apply this policy to all parties that require individuals in need of care to be sat together? Where a reduced mobility passenger is travelling with an accompanying adult, Ryanair says it “…contacts them by email and do our best to ensure the accompanying passenger is seated next to them and allocate them a seat free of charge.”

Is Ryanair in breach of The Equal Status Acts 2000-2015, because adults with children are being charged where others without children are not, which is therefore discriminatory against those with dependants? Also, others in need of a carer are not charged.

Irish Aviation Authority
Ryanair comes under the jurisdiction of the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA). A spokesperson for the IAA said “If a child travels with an accompanying adult in the same class of cabin, the child should be seated in the same seat row segment as the accompanying adult. Where this is not possible, the child should be seated no more than one seat row or aisle away. All Irish airlines must comply with these requirements and the IAA monitors Irish airlines to ensure compliance.” Despite my requesting a response regarding Ryanair’s mandatory charging from the IAA Director of Safety Regulation Ralph James and CEO Eamonn Brennan and repeated requests to the Press Office and making a complaint using the IAA procedure, the IAA has declined to comment any further on repeating the line on the EU guidance and refuses point blank to comment on monitoring Ryanair’s practice and whether it will take any action on the possible breach of the EU guidelines and indeed the Equality Act.

Further confusion
The European Consumer Centre Ireland said that this matter wouldn’t fit under their remit and suggested contacting the Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR), as it is the national enforcement agency. But it too said it did not have any legal remit in the area. The European Consumer Centre UK said “This is an area that we would seldom advise on as the experts in this field would be the Civil Aviation Authority who has already provided a comment. It also recommended contacting the CAR.

So, there you have it, none of the organisations in Ireland responsible for overseeing airlines practices want to get involved in monitoring airlines seating children with their adults despite the equivalent in the UK doing so.

Ryanair flies into oblivion the latest fiasco regarding delays

All you need to know about booking/complaining about holidays/flights various posts on laws, guidance, stories, templates etc.

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!


For consumer rights, regulations, laws guidance, advice and template letters for complaining effectively for most situations GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!


Tesco insect in raspberries!

Time for a Tesco complaint story. Well would be a shame not to wouldn’t it? For those new here see History with Tesco!

So, there I was down at my Mum’s and she bought some raspberries and cream. She did this little shriek when she nearly put some sort of flying insect thing in her mouth ‘cos it was stuck on a raspberry. Now, given that I once found an insect in Tesco rice a few years back and how Tesco dealt with it – I refused to take back to the store as not knowing if it would get “lost” in the post. Anyway, I sent it for them to investigate and they found out what insect it was and gave me £30 for my trouble. This was in Clarke’s day and I wondered if things had changed.

Now, having met Dave Lewis the group CEO a few times including interviewing him last year I thought I’d email him. Normally I wouldn’t expect a CEO to respond directly but I thought well he knows me and I’ll use my normal humour and see if it makes him smile.

See if it does you?


Before your time at Tesco I bought some rice from Tesco with an insect alive in it. I named him Phillip. Insect in rice.

But now there’s big trouble because I’m down at my Mum’s and she bought some raspberries from Tesco. (Taunton). Raspberries and cream we had and she just stopped short of putting some in her mouth as some thing very big with lots of wiggily wriggly legs crawled out of a raspberry. It may have had wings but there was a bit of a cream crust so can’t be sure. Was hoping to film him crawling but my mother suffocated him with some Tesco finest clotted cream. Not a bad way for Mike to go I suppose but even so Tesco has upset my Mum now and so, well, that has to be at least an email to the CEO obviously! She was very cross which means I am. But I won’t bother with the stuff that I usually put in these things regarding legal stuff and redress because I trust you to do right by my mum!

I have Mike ready to post to Tesco for testing to see what it was and where it came from. If he has wings we may need to change the name to Saint Michael.

Happy Easter

Kind regards

Well we thought it was funny. I’d normally do the kind of email that always gets results regarding Consumer Rights Act 2015 etc etc. But got the usual email from the executive office. They took a long time getting back to me with no reference to the story. Miserable whatsits. They told the supplier but didn’t want the raspberries to check what it was. They gave my mum £20.

Well my Mum was pleased….

Tesco Group CEO email or Tesco UK CEO contact details  should you need them.

Plusnet gets a “minus” – and a big fine – for incorrect billing

Plusnet has become the latest telecom provider to be fined by the regulator Ofcom. The broadband and phone provider, owned by BT, has been fined £880,000 for billing former customers. It is the third provider in less than 6 months to be fined by Ofcom.

In October 2016 Vodafone was fined £4.6m for breaches of consumer protection laws and in January 2017 EE was fined approximately £2.7m for incorrect billing.

Plusnet faces a fine of £880,000 imposed by Ofcom for continuing to bill more than a thousand former customers for landline and broadband services. The case involves more than 1,000 ex-customers who were overcharged a total of more than £500,000.

Ofcom says in its press release:

“The penalty is the result of an investigation, which found that the telecoms company broke a fundamental billing rule by continuing to charge a group of customers for landline or broadband, after they had cancelled their service.

Once a customer cancels his or her home phone or broadband service, providers’ billing systems must recognise that the line is ‘ceased’. In this case, an error in Plusnet’s billing system meant that cancelled lines were still recognised as ‘live’.As a result, 1,025 customers who had cancelled either their landline or broadband service continued to be billed, meaning they were overcharged by more than £500,000 in total.

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director, said: “There can be no margin for error, and no excuses, when it comes to billing customers correctly.”

“This fine should serve as a reminder to telecoms companies that they must adhere to Ofcom’s billing rules at all times, or face the consequences.””

Ofcom says that Plusnet has attempted to refund all affected ex-customers. It has so far refunded 356 customers a total of £212,140, which included interest at a rate of 4% for each customer. Any remaining money, from former customers who could not be reached, has been donated to a dozen local charities. Plusnet has also clarified to Ofcom the steps it has taken to prevent any future billing errors of this kind.

Ofcom says that the fine, which must be paid to Ofcom within 20 working days, will be passed on to HM Treasury.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, telecoms really are the worst sector for customer service. It really needs a company to pull out all the stops and do things differently, risk not making any money for a while and then watch everyone flock to them for the customer service.

Useful information
Ofcom does not investigate individual claims. If you have a complaint about a telecom provider whether broadband, landline or mobile, see All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers which provides information and how to complain effectively to telecom providers.

See How to Complain; The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! for tips, advice, consumer laws and templates for complaining effectively.

Will your Gift Cards keep on giving?

Or will they expire before you can use them?!

If you‘ve come here after watching the report on The One Show about gift cards, here are some of those tips and more with the links you might need. Plus other useful links at the end.

The press release with more background information on the story can be found on Looking a gift card in the mouth

1) Carefully check the expiry date of the Gift Card, which could even be different to advertised! Tesco sells the Pizza Express card with an 18 months expiry but when I contacted them they said this was mistake and would change the figure on their website to 24 months. Many independent restaurants can be 6-9 months and experience days are usually 6 or 9. Most will start the clock running again from when the card was last used if you have credit.

2) If you find a card that you haven’t used, go into the store and ask for a balance check. Many of the larger retailers will do this and your time will start again. So if you have only 3 months left on a card but started with 24, the 24 will start again.

3) Remember your consumer rights stay the same. If the item you buy with the card is not of satisfactory quality then under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 you can take it back within 30 days for a full refund. After that time a repair or replacement may be offered. But you get refunded using the method by which you paid, so the money will go back onto the Gift Card

4) It isn’t just gift cards as presents you need to be careful of, as sometimes gift cards are given as goodwill gestures by companies. So for example, Eurostar or Ryanair may give you a Gift Card and you don’t intend to travel for a couple of years, but their cards only last a year.

5) Often its grandparents giving children Gift Cards. They don’t like the idea of just giving cash and sometimes feel that if they hand over money in a shop it is more of a present than cash, but those younger children go out shopping less often than adults so check their cards too. Buy them off the children, if you can use them.

6) My mum always bought mine at face value when I was a child because she’s nice, but if you don’t have the option of exchanging for face value you can always sell them on a website. Zeek (that’s an affiliate link so if you use it and register at no cost then you and I should both get a payment!) has been going for a couple of years in this country. It provides a way to can sell your unwanted gift card for slightly less than face value and Zeek takes 7% (you just have more than 3 months to go on the card). Zeek checks balances on cards before they can be sold. You may find gift cards on auction st of course eBay doesn’t check what sellers sell. Useful guidance can be found  on eBay Buyers Guide to purchasing Gift Vouchers & Gift Cards from the UK Giftcard and Voucher Association.

7) Keep the receipt in a separate place to the card. If you lose the card you will still have the details so that if you act quickly enough the store maybe able to cancel the card. But in essence the card acts like cash.

8) Check that you can use in concessions within a store and online, as again all varies from store to store!

9) If store goes bust act quickly. It will be up to the administrators as to whether they will continue to accept them.

10) If your card has expired don’t despair. Although it is unlikely you will get a full refund it is worth asking at the checkout, then with customer services and then the CEO, by telling him or her what you think of their ridiculous unnecessary expiry dates!



Big name companies which only have one year expiry dates are:

12 months
Wiggle, Eurostar, Habitat, Ticketmaster, Crew Clothing, Ryanair, Spafinder, O2 Climb, Vue, Westfield Shopping Centre, JD Sports and Restaurant Choice (variety of chains and you can’t even use with any discount promotion either!)

10 months
Buyagift and Spabreaks

6 months
Various independent restaurants, We Are Vertigo and UK Paintball

Useful information

Consumer Rights Act 2015

20 Top Tips for Complaining Effectively

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!


Signed copies of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! . Or get unsigned copies from Amazon here.




See for the contact details for any CEO.

Newsletter. Promise not to fill up your inbox with lots of rubbish on a regular basis! I don’t send them very often, but when I do it’s usually to tell you about changes in the law, updates and items of interest. So go on sign up you know you’re interested and I shall of course complain if you don’t!

Why you should write not ‘phone to complain effectively

phoneWriting v ‘phoning complaints
As many of you who follow this blog know, I always advocate putting your complaints in writing as one my Top Tips for effective complaining. You have evidence that you contacted the company, you can take your time to think about what you want to say, you can bullet point your issues, you can take out emotion, you can go back to it and rewrite until you are happy to send it and you have evidence of what they have or have not said to you (and that makes it hard for a retailer/service provider to deny and certainly going to an ADR scheme or Small Claims Court is made a lot easier with proof!) I had many appendices when I took Tesco to court! Writing means you aren’t left on the ‘phone waiting to get through to people at call centres where a lot of other issues come into play too! Many people who ask me for help with complaints have struggled because they have been phoning and not writing and don’t have a trail.

Recording calls & the Law
I often hear people saying that  they can record calls and that they will take this to an ADR scheme or Small Claims Court. Be careful here of what you can do! The interception, recording and monitoring of telephone calls is governed by a number of different pieces of UK legislation. It all points to it may be it may not! The guidance you get may be after you have made the call when it is too late.

  • The ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) has no guidance on its website but when I emailed them to ask for guidance I was told:
    “Admittance of any type of evidence in a court case is decided based on the rules of the court. So whether any call recordings (either recorded for personal use or by a company when they have informed you they are recording calls) can be used in court is entirely up to the judge on a case by case basis. If you are going to court then it would be advisable to speak to your solicitor about it or if you are representing yourself then the court clerk may be able to advise you.”
  • The Justice department, (Your rights and the law)  said it could not provide legal advice.
  • Ofcom give this guidance on recording calls. This says that you can record calls for your own use and if you want to use to share with a third party (such as ADR or SCC) you must ask the person you are calling for their consent. This could be refused in which case you will not be able to use. However, when emailed to give more guidance on whether ‘phone calls can be used in court Ofcom said “I’m afraid we’re not able to give guidance on his matter.”

Therefore, think carefully before ringing as you may not have the evidence you need should you need to take the matter further. I also think that the difficulties of proving what was said in phone calls is a reason that many companies make it so difficult to email! Don’t be beaten because you can always email the CEO – find the address of any CEO here.

Tips for if you have to ‘phone
However, sometimes you need to ‘phone as it is urgent. What do you need to bear in mind?

  • Write down exactly what you want to say before you pick up the ‘phone, which will mean that you are prepared.
  • Take a note of the date and time you started and finished the call
  • Be polite, if you aren’t you risk the customer services representative refusing to speak to you
  • Ensure you get the name of the person to whom you are talking, first and second name
  • Quote relevant Acts where necessary. If you are not receiving services undertaken with reasonable skill and care and that includes over the ‘phone, then say that they are in breach of the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
  • Ask the person to whom you are talking to put what has been agreed in writing preferably by email and whilst you are on the ‘phone.
  • Read this post about call centres!

Then there is social media, more on that here.

For more tips on how to complain effectively see this post and for loads more advice, tips, information, guidance, examples of complaining effectively and templates see How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!