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Travel industry news

19 Nov 2018

BY James Chapple

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Airlines 'hoodwinking' passengers with seat allocation algorithm – minister

A minister has accused airlines of “hoodwinking” families into paying more to sit together on flights.

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Airlines 'hoodwinking' passengers with seat allocation algorithm – minister

Margot James said carriers were exploiting families through the algorithmic allocation of airline seats.


The CAA is currently undertaking a review of allocated seating after finding passengers were “unnecessarily” spending up to £175 million a year on fees and extra charges.


Addressing a parliamentary communications committee, digital minister Margot James branded the software used by airlines a “cynical, exploitative means... to hoodwink the general public,” the Times reports.


“Some airlines have set an algorithm to identify passengers of the same surname travelling together,” said James. “They’ve had the temerity to split the passengers up, and when the family want to travel together, they are charged more.”


It comes, the Times reports, ahead of the launch of the government’s Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, which will investigate where clearer guidelines and regulation are necessary to govern the use of data and data-enabled technologies.


Earlier this year, the CAA reported airline passengers were spending between £74 million and £175 million to sit together when they may not necessarily have had to, with 45% of payments likely to have been for seats that would have been placed together irrespective.


Prices, said the CAA, range from £1.99 to £100 for allocated seats, with fees typically between £5 and £30.

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