‘Stop whingeing’ over €2 seat fee, says Michael O’Leary

Ryanair chief says company’s seating algorithm has changed but policy has not

Michael O’Leary: ‘People are whining and whingeing - but you can’t sit where you want.’ File photograph: Stephanie Lecocq/EPA

Michael O’Leary: ‘People are whining and whingeing - but you can’t sit where you want.’ File photograph: Stephanie Lecocq/EPA

 

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has said that if passengers are not willing to pay for their seat they should “stop complaining and whingeing”.

Mr O’Leary said the algorithms that allocate the airline’s seating have changed but that the company’s policy on seating has not.

Mr O’Leary was responding to public outrage at charges for reserved seating.

An Irish Times story earlier this month detailed the experience of a number of the airline’s passengers who were allocated free seats far apart from travelling companions, contrary to their previous experiences with the airline. Hundreds of others have made contact to echo their concerns since the story was published.

A thread running through virtually all the complaints was that passengers who have travelled with the airline in recent weeks - including families travelling with children - were separated from companions irrespective of when they checked in and how many adjacent seats were available on the aircraft.

“We haven’t changed our policy. If you’re not happy to pay €2 for a seat, stop complaining and whingeing,” Mr O’Leary told RTE’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show.

“If you want to select a seat, pay €2.”

He said that there are 40 reserved seats on sale at €2 per flight and 60 reserved seats at €4 per flight, most of which are aisle or window seats. Unreserved seats tend to be in the middle because they are the least popular.

“People are whining and whingeing - but you can’t sit where you want. Sorry you can’t.”

Mr O’Leary denied that families were being deliberately separated. He pointed out that children under the age of 12 can have a seat allocated for free if an adult travelling with them pays the €2 reserved seat fee.

Later Mr O’Leary appeared on RTÉ’s Liveline with Joe Duffy when he rejected the allegation that the algorithm that leaves passenger dispersed separately around the plane despite vacant seats being available.

“Has the algorithm changed? No it hasn’t. It changes automatically on an hourly - it changes due to demand and because the number of reserved seats has changed.

“Are you likely to be split up if you select a random seat? Yes you are likely to be split up because that’s what random means. If you want to sit specifically in a seat then you select a reserved seat for just two euro. Less than the cost of the RTÉ licence fee,” he said.

Mr O’Leary denied that the airline ever attempted to accommodate passengers who book together with neighbouring seats. “Our aircrafts are flying with 96 per cent load factors, there are no empty seats unless a passenger is a no show,” he said.

“For about two years we have had a policy of offering people who want to reserve a seat - can do so and people who choose a random seat can have a random seat. I frankly don’t know what you’re complaining about when you get a random seat,” he said.

“You’re not having to pay extra, you chose a random seat so you’re getting a random seat.”

He said more than half of passengers are now choosing to pay for a reserved seat which has led to other passengers being split up.

“We have more than 65 million people who chose to pay for the seat,” he said.

He said it was untrue that the algorithm is configured to deliberately disperse passengers who did not pay for reserved seating.