Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: Can they force us to pay for allocated seats so we can check in online?
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Thursday 09 May 2013
Q. Is it legal for Monarch Airlines to force us to pay for allocated seats so we can check in online?
David Keenan, Spain
A. Yes. The rules on airline tickets say, approximately, "If a seat is offered at a particular price, then it must be possible to travel at that price". Long-suffering travellers know that anything from baggage to a bit of extra legroom is going to cost more. Check-in is trickier: Ryanair and easyJet now both make it mandatory to check in online, but charge no extra for the privilege - indeed the reason they do it is to reduce costs at the airport.
Monarch has a contrary model: if you want to check in online, in advance, then you have to pay. The airline is careful to say "Online check-in is free but you must pre-allocate and pay for a seat". For those of us who are unconcerned about the precise location on the plane, this is not really an advantage worth paying between £3 and £8 for (the exact amount depends on the length of the flight). So on my Monarch flights I simply check in at the airport, and get assigned a reasonable seat. The only occasion when I have checked in online is when I thought I would need to cut it fine getting to the airport - and after all that, the plane was three hours late. Won't get caught again.
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