Ryanair seating allocation continues to prompt reader rage

Pricewatch: ‘We should refuse to pay for dedicated seats and instead swap at no cost’

Ryanair insists there is no deliberate policy in place which separates those who don’t pay for allocated seats

Ryanair insists there is no deliberate policy in place which separates those who don’t pay for allocated seats


Reader disquiet about how Ryanair has been managing its seat allocation in recent months has not gone away.

In early June we highlighted the experiences of hundreds of the airline’s passengers who told us they had been deliberately separated from their travelling companions because they had refused to pay for reserved seating.

Ryanair flatly denied there had been any change in its policy and said that the reason people were being separated was simply because more people were flying with the airline so “there are now less seats to allocate randomly”.

At the end of June BBC’s Watchdog programme took a closer look at the story.

With the help researchers from the University of Oxford it carried out an experiment which saw four people booked onto four flights.

Each time they were split up and each time they were given separate middle seats throughout the plane.

And according to Watchdog each time the group could see “from the seating availability charts online that there was plenty of room on the plane for them to be allocated seats together”.

According to Dr Jennifer Rodgers of the university, the odds of this happening randomly were “astronomical” and she told the programme that “you have a greater chance of winning the lottery”.

Still Ryanair insists there is no deliberate policy in place which separates those who don’t pay for allocated seats. We recieved the following statement.

“We haven’t changed the random seat allocation policy,” a spokesman said. “The reason for more middle seats being allocated is that more and more passengers are taking our reserved seats (from just €2) and these passengers overwhelmingly prefer aisle and window seats, which is why people who choose random (free of charge) seats are more likely to be allocated middle seats.

“Some random seat passengers are confused by the appearance of empty seats beside them when they check-in up to four days prior to departure. The reason they can’t have these window or aisle seats is that these are more likely to be selected by reserved seat passengers many of whom only check-in 24 hours prior to departure. Since our current load factor is 96%, we have to keep these window and aisle seats free to facilitate those customers who are willing to pay (from €2) for them.

“This is entirely a matter of customer choice. We are not trying to force people to pay for reserved seats. We are very happy to facilitate any customer who wants a free of charge random seat but we are also going to do our best to facilitate customers who are willing to pay for a reserved seat (usually window or aisle) which start from €2.”

Principled protest

A reader called Aidan Corless and his wife recently returned from holidays in Bari, Italy and flew with the airline. Not more than two hours after he got home he was compelled to get in touch with Pricewatch with what could be viewed as call for a principled protest against the seating policy.

“Two weeks ago we went to London with Ryanair and experienced the same, each of us sitting well away from each other. The people sitting next to us on the plane were also apart from their partners, because they did not buy seats.

“On the Bari flight, I was at the back of the plane and my wife Sarah at the front on the way out, so I asked the person beside me if they would change with my wife, they said sure, as their husband was near the front.

“They said that they know they were being separated because they did not pay for a seat. I reminded her that she did pay for a seat, but not for a dedicated seat.”

On the return trip he was five seats from his wife and the lady sitting next to his wife was six seats away from her partner.

“We swapped again. Before March 2017 this never happened, we were always seated together 100 per cent of the time.”

Aidan says that the cost for two to Bari was €798 ,a price which included one checked-in bag. He says it is “not cheap but nobody else flies there. I refuse to pay for a dedicated seat, and believe the media could explain the following to all Ryanair customers, all over Europe: If we pay, then we will all have to pay, all of the time.

“If we refuse, then none of us will have to pay ever. We pay their wages, we are responsible for making Ryanair €1, 325 billion profit this year, and without us Ryanair are nothing. That’s without extra profits from dedicated seats.”

Aidan says he started flying with Ryanair into the UK weekly in 1990 when “I opened a factory in Tottenham, flying into a tiny airport called Stansted. Yes the flights were less expensive than Aer Lingus, but honestly even then they were arrogant and ill-mannered.

‘We should refuse to pay for dedicated seats’

“In recent years O’Leary learnt that by showing respect, the business would do better. It really has, but the latest try-on should be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

“We should refuse to pay for any dedicated seats, and swap as we want, as I have done, at no cost. If we did this: We would win and Ryanair would back down, they have no choice if we act.

“And we would have less hassle and Ryanair flights would depart on time, because if we all start swapping seats, plane will lose their slot time, and Ryanair will pay more on the ground, and will lose customers as a result of delays.”

He says he is driven by principal.

“I will not pay for my seat a second time, and if all of us took this decision, and swapped seats on the plane, Ryanair would have no choice but to back down.

“If Ryanair want to charge more for the ticket, they can try, but not this bully boy tactic which they even deny they are doing.

“People need to understand that they make the decision to pay or not to pay, not Ryanair. Let’s agree not to pay for seats a second time, just swap on board.

In response to our reader’s story, Ryanair got in touch to say the only reason he and wife were separated on the Bari flight was because it was “almost fully booked”.