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Commercial aircraft cabin with passengers
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As most travelers know, more airlines are charging more fees for services — like seat assignments — that used to be included.

Now the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), in the U.K., is investigating airlines that may deliberately split up passengers traveling in groups, forcing them to pay seating charges to sit together.

“We will be looking into how airlines decide where to seat passengers that have booked as part of a group and whether any airlines are pro-actively splitting up groups of passengers when, in fact, they could be sat together,” Andrew Haines, the chief executive of the CAA, said in a statement. “We will not hesitate to take any necessary enforcement action should it be required at the end of the review.”

The CAA estimates that passengers pay U.K. airlines more than £390 million (about $547 million) each year on seat-selection fees, according to the Telegraph. According to the CAA’s preliminary research, many customers are spending money to sit together when they may not need to.

“Our work will consider whether or not these charges are fair and transparent,” Haines said.

Airlines allocate “random” seats based on a computer algorithm — however each airline has its own unique algorithm which disperses passengers in unique seating patterns.

Passengers flying the budget airline Ryanair were the most likely to be separated from their group, according to the CAA. (It happened to 35 percent of passengers.) Emirates passengers were the runners up, separated 22 percent of the time, followed by Virgin Atlantic at 18 percent. Across the 10 airlines surveyed, an average 18 percent of passengers were split from their group when they did not pay a seating fee.