The sky-high seating fees - Thomson respond

16 November 2010

Our post yesterday, about charges to choose seating on-board flights whipped plenty of avid Bitterwallet readers into a frenzy.

We highlighted reader Cheryl's dilemma while travelling with Thomson, and many of you responded to the broader debate of whether airlines should ever charge for seating, and Thomson's seemingly bizarre seating policy:

"This happened to us 3 years ago with Thompson, they put all 3 of us on end row seats going down the plane, our main concern was the 3rd seat for our son - who was 18 months old at the time. However most passengers helped us re allocate by swapping seats and 3 others complained to the air stewardess about the allocation for our family - it was disgusting." Darren

"What “operational reasons” are Thomson talking about? When you buy your ticket you are reserving a “seat”, so you have the right there and then to choose from the remaining seats available." Bob

"We just flew with Thomson as a family of four. I liked the fact that you could go online and look at the selection you were currently given (shite) and then pay through the nose to change it. There were several rows of four still empty but we had been allocated three different rows to sit. This seems to prove that if you don’t pay, Thomson will deliberately separate you.

On the way back from Taba the local staff simply walked to all the families, took their details and ensured that they all sat together, so up yours Thomson." James

Crikey. We've since heard back from a Thomson spokesperson concerning both the debate and Cheryl's experiences - see what you make of this:

"Thomson Airways holds customer satisfaction in the highest regard and is therefore always disappointed when a customer feels their flight experience has not lived up to Thomson Airways’ high standards.

"Thomson Airways recognises that their customers have many needs when it comes to seating and therefore plans the seating arrangements for each of its flights in advance. Priority is given to those who have made the choice to reserve their seats in advance and those who have specific requirements based on medical or disability needs.

"Whilst first-come-first served seats are available at check-in on the day of departure, these can be limited due to the popularity of advanced seating requests. The option to reserve seats together is offered in advance of departure date in order to give customers peace of mind that they will be seated together. Customers who purchase group seating with Thomson Airways will also be given the added option of choosing the exact location of their seats, within the price.

"If on the day of departure it becomes apparent that a family could be separated for the flight, then for safety reasons, dependent children will always be sat with at least one parent or guardian.

"Thomson Airways would like to apologise to Cheryl that her group were not offered the most preferable seating arrangement, however it strongly believes that their seating policy is fair, and beneficial for the vast majority of customers."

TOPICS:   Travel


  • Joff
    When I book groups of seats I always like to sit everyone in the middle across several rows.
  • Bob
    This reply does not explain why there is a charge for reserving seats, and why their charges are so much higher than all other airlines. Perhaps you can put this question to them Bitterwallet?
  • Abuse T.
    What a cock and bull corporate response. And from a company that "holds customer satisfaction in the highest regard" no less. Let the Thompson-bashing begin (continue?).
  • James
    What a crap response. Seems to me that seats should initially be allocated to suit all travellers as best as possible. Preference should then be given to those who pay. Fact is on a largely empty plane the default seats allocated to my family were spread apart despite there being several empty rows of four. If all the rows of four had been booked by those paying to reserve seats then that's fair enough, but until that time by default we should have been in one of those. It is very clear that if you pay, Thomson will look after you. But unlike other airlines, if you don't pay, Thomson will deliberately try and inconvenience your seating selection. However, to add a little balance this was a package holiday to Taba and the whole Thomson deal was brilliant and every other element was above expectations.
  • Nick T.
    The expected humbug response from Thomson, hoping we'll all just go away. Bottom line: they don't care. Wave a credit card and they'll care slightly more. Who knew?
  • Dave A.
    For 60 odd years(more?) airlines have had precisely zero problems seating families together. Now, suddenly, the technology to allocate appropriate seating has suddenly stopped working unless more coins are fed into the meter. It's extortion, plain and simple. Thomson are talking out of their fucking arses.
  • Sandy
    It is unacceptable that Thomson charge for seating. It is really quite unacceptable that any airline charges for seating. As the previous poster quite clearly states, once you purchase your holiday or flight, you are going to sit somewhere. Those who book first, choose first. Most all scheduled airlines offer the choice of seating at the time of booking, they don't charge extra. It is true that some scheduled airlines do charge more for booking in certain classes and for certain seats but again, these are UK airlines (typical for Rip-off UK) but not usually for standard seats. Come on Thomson, think again. We are already stuffed in like sardines, without any elbow or movement room, if you could just allow us to pick our seats for free at the time of booking, you would not only be praised for your foresight but increase your sales, which would compensate for the loss of revenue from the loss of charging for the seats. Simple economics really!
  • Damian
    Bring it on Thomson! I'd like to see how they handle my two young children separated from me on a long haul flight. When I questioned their logic in this policy I was told that my children will be seated with another "responsible adult" what a crazy thing to say - have they not thought of the legal implications of this?
  • Mike L.
    Iv'e just had a similar experience where my wife is recovering from cancer and I have joint problems. We not only paid £70 just for paying by visa, we also paid £ 40 for reserving three seats together. We were told to check on line nearer the departure time for some obscure reason in order to 'choose' our seats but were contacted by a call centre beforehand who tried to talk us into a 'meal' seat for an extra £40 pounds. I refused and complained about the cynical system. When I went on line to 'select my seats I found that we had been squeezed into the rear seats despite my asking for extra leg room, having a very tall and claustrophobic daughter and special needs for myself and wife. I was forced into paying the extra £40 just to get three 'meal' seats nearer the front. Total stolen expenditure - £150. This was a special treat which I struggled to afford and Thompson have left a very bitter taste in my mouth. Never again.
  • Ian H.
    Wished I had seen these comments before booking 2012 holiday with Thomson. On principle I would not have gone with Thomson and have already told them that. This is typical rip off Britain. It doesn't seem to matter what service you use in this country they are always trying to rip you off. Postage to different parts of the country is another that really annoys me.
  • Alan
    “Thomson Airways holds customer satisfaction in the highest regard and is therefore always disappointed when a customer feels their flight experience has not lived up to Thomson Airways’ high standards. The above statement from Thomson is a load of rubbish, Thomson customer services clearly demonstrate a severe lack of moral integrity and an abuse of responsibilities I booked flight only with Thomson Airways and was offered option of two departure dates with available seats flying direct from Manchester to Lanzarote. Selected earliest flight, booked meals, seats checked in luggage and made payment. Payment confirmation advised I would receive an email to print out boarding documents and warned that if I did not print out documents and take them to the airport I would be denied boarding. Never did receive email with information to print out documents and the departure airport had been changed by Thomson to depart from Birmingham. Made every attempt and method to contact Thomson as soon as the payment confirmation was displayed. Thomson failed to pick up the telephone, failed to respond to emails or any of their on-line contact systems. I cancelled the wrong flight Thomson had booked me on by email, did not get any reply and Thomson seized payment and refused to refund payment except for air passenger duty which they voluntary refunded because (as they put it) we did not make the flight. Had I known that Thomson operate a no refund under any circumstances policy to boost their unearned income generation system I would not have booked with them and I will never book with them again.
  • Charlie
    See my email - regarding this issue - although yet to receive a response and doubt i will get one. Dear Sir or Madam I’m writing to express my dissatisfaction at the service I have just received when I called your representatives (who did not pass on her name) on 0844 871 0878. However I called at 11:30 today if this can assist track the call. I called up with requests for 3 simple pieces of information. I wanted to know the terminal at Gatwick we would be departing from , understand the process of reserving seats together and information around how to transfer to the hotel. I queried why my girlfriend and I would not automatically receive seats together considering we booked at the same time. She said that you offer a “service” at £30 to reserve the seats together – I assume therefore it would £60 for both us to do this. I then explained I wasn’t really satisfied with this for the following reasons: 1) it seems like an extortionate amount to reserve a seat on a long distance flight for the privilege of sitting with the person I booked with (we booked under the same reference after all) – I’d be interested to know how this price is justified? 2) I have never experienced having to pay to reserve a seat next to my travelling partners in the past with other providers 3)At approx £1500 for our holiday I think adding in these types of extra’s is again extortionate. I explained that I would like to speak to a manger about this and she was quite frankly very unhelpful. She said all I could do was email this address but the response would be the same. She wasn’t even willing to give me the email address initially stating that I could find it on the internet – your email you sent me confirming the booking states “If you have any queries at all about your holiday, please call us on 0844 871 0878 where our team of advisors will be happy to help”. I don’t think it is unreasonable to provide me with an email address when I’ve been on hold for 10/15 minutes waiting to get through. However she eventually did this albeit rather rudely. Afterwards I just wanted to express my dissatisfaction with the service and was mid way through explaining it when she hung up on me. Afterwards I looked on the Internet for the complaints process – but it appears if you have not already had your holiday you can only complain in writing. I fly on the 7th April and there is no way the issue would be resolved to a mutually satisfactory result in this time. Therefore I needed to call your 0844 871 0878 number again. I spoke with a gentlemen called Ryan who displayed exactly what I expect in terms of customer service, he was courteous and listened to my frustrations. He said he would try and trace the call and get back to me once speaking with a line manager. I am however yet to have received a call and truly hope I will be getting one. This is the first time I have booked a holiday with Thomson and I’m now concerned that the service I receive during the rest of my holiday & flights will be as equally as poor as I first experienced with your agent. In the interest of rectifying this I feel the very least you could do is assure us that we will be able to sit together at no extra cost. Should I not receive a call back by Ryan or one of your managers I will be very disappointed and certainly will not be using your company again as well as following this up in writing your managing director – please provide me his contact details regardless of the outcome of this email. Regards Charles Crisp
  • Martin
    Two years on and the system hasn't improved at all. The whole on-line check-in, seating allocation from Thomson is appalling! In fact, we've experienced a far superior check-in service from the budget airlines for a fraction of the cost. It's such a shame as the service we have received once on holiday has always been excellent.

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