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Do airlines split up families so they pay extra for seat allocation?

Traveling with family and friends? Don’t count on sitting together, unless you’re willing to fork over extra money.

It has become increasingly common for airlines to charge passengers extra to choose seats on flights in advance, making it common for parties to be separated on flights. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), a U.K. airline regulatory body, has launched an investigation into the practice, and found U.K. passengers pay an estimated 390 million pounds a year ($547 million) to ensure they are seated together.

For those who do not pay, one in five passengers are separated from friends and family on flights, and that number rises to one in three for budget airlines like Ryanair RYAAY, +3.00% A spokesman for Ryanair said the airline is happy to participate in the review by the CAA.

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