Ryanair denies deliberately separating passengers to make money

People travelling with the airline have expressed concern over seat allocation

Ryanair has denied its free seat allocation system is deliberately separating people travelling together in order to force passengers to pay for reserved seating.

Until recently, passengers travelling together who did not pay for specific seats tended to be allocated seats side by side, however passengers have contacted The Irish Times over the last week to complain that the policy appears to have changed.

People who have travelled with the airline in recent weeks – including people travelling with children – have expressed concern that they have been separated from companions despite the fact that they checked in early when there were plenty of adjacent seats available.

One frequent Ryanair-flying reader who travelled with the airline twice last week was separated from his travelling companions on both occasions and will be separated from his family again when he flies with the airline later this week.


The middle seat

“The first trip was with a colleague to Manchester,” he said. “I booked the flights and checked us in online. Previously they pretty well always sat you beside each other but I was put in the middle seat in a row in front of him,” he continued.

"The window seat was vacant beside each of us. On the second trip I came back from Luton with two others. Again we were all split up. We fly to Portugal tomorrow. I checked in yesterday as soon as free allocation check-in opened on line. We were all allocated seats in different parts of the aircraft. Significantly our child is booked as a juvenile and you would have thought would be seated beside an adult. Always used to be."

Another reader had a similar experience. “I went to check in online for Ryanair flights on Friday (for myself, my wife and our son who is autistic) going to Malaga to find that they have allocated myself, my wife and son three seats as far apart as possible on the plane,” he said.

“The only way to sit together (even though there are lots of seats not booked) is to pay to move two of us to sit with the other. So they are now deliberately putting people apart so that they pay to sit together.”

Random allocation

In response to these and other concerns, the company provided The Irish Times with a statement which said customers who do not wish to purchase a seat "are randomly allocated a seat, free of charge. (This has been our policy since the introduction of allocated seating in February 2014.) Customers can purchase their preferred allocated seat from just €2 and can now check in up to 60 days out. Adults travelling with children are required to purchase one allocated seat (priced just €4) and up to four children on the same booking will be given free allocated seats."

When pressed as to why readers were reporting a change in policy the company subsequently claimed that as more people were flying with the airline “there are now less seats to allocate randomly”.

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor and cohost of the In the News podcast