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My best friend and I will fly from Basel (BSL) to London Gatwick (LGW) in October. We booked our flight tickets separately and neither of us reserved a seat. As I understand, the system will assign us a seat at check-in (which we will do online simultaneously).

How are the chances that we will be assigned conjoined seats if we check in at the very same moment?

Would it be possible to change seats after bording (as in asking a seat neighbour to switch seats) or is that prohibited?

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You might be able to get seats near each other on check-in, but likely you will have to pay for that. When on the flight, you can ask your seat mates, and his/hers, whether it is possible to change. But if you are both in middle seats, it is rather unlikely that you will find people willing to change.

Some flights have empty seats, and if they are there you can often (with the crews permission) sit in them after leaving the ground, but you can not be sure of there being seats empty.

  • Remember, too, that people often choose certain seats intentionally, and will be reluctant to move. If I'm comfortable and have my belongings situated, I don't really feel a great desire to change seats just because someone else chose to take his or her chances, but if you give me a seat of equal quality and catch me before I've actually sat down, I have done it in the past. Just understand that people are under zero obligation to move. – Jim MacKenzie Jul 13 '18 at 16:55
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Airport check-in agents (as opposed to the airline website, or unmanned check-in kiosks at the airport) are, in my experience, usually happy to assign seats together at no charge if they're available (though of course you won't get to choose which seats those are). Just approach the check-in desk together. However, on crowded flights, depending on the airline, there may not be any adjacent seats left by the time airport check-in opens.

Checking in separately online at the same moment, if anything, makes it even less likely that you'll just happen to end up together. The systems I'm familiar with don't just go 1A-1F, 2A-2F, etc.; window and aisle seats are distributed before middle seats.

As Willeke mentioned, it's possible to swap seats (though on some flights I've taken, the crew has requested people to stay in their original seats until after takeoff). For parents and children travelling together, the crew will do their best to get them together (for example, they'll offer free drinks to someone willing to switch to a middle seat to accommodate it), but for just a couple of adults, you're likely to be on your own. (Note, however, that you are also empowered to buy a drink for someone to entice them to swap.)

  • EasyJet does promote checking-in online, from a month before the flight, and not in the airport. As far as I know they do not charge for checking-in at the airport but most seats will be taken by that time. In their system, the 'random appointed seats' are mostly middle seats, so the window and aisle seats are available for those paying for them. Late online check-in often gives aisle seats, but unlikely two near each other. – Willeke Jul 13 '18 at 17:28
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    Exactly... it comes down to how full the flight is. On a slow day, the premium seats (up front and exit row) will be almost entirely empty, and airlines know they won't sell them at the airport, so they'll use them for groups checking in there. – Sneftel Jul 13 '18 at 21:30
  • @Sneftel how full would you recon a flight would be on a sunday at 21:55? – NicolasB Jul 26 '18 at 7:11
  • Couldn't really say... I only flew Basel-UK once, and not at that time of week. Late Sunday flights back from tourist destinations can get pretty crowded during high season, but that may have tapered off by October. – Sneftel Jul 26 '18 at 7:17

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