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seat allocation

Ryanair denies splitting up families on flights, but customers are not happy

Passengers are being charged extra to sit together, but the airline has denied changing its policy.

RYANAIR CUSTOMERS HAVE been complaining about being charged extra to sit beside the people they are flying with.

A number of people have been venting their frustration about the practice online.

Angela Slevin, who recently flew to Lanzarote with Ryanair, told “When you don’t pay for a seat and opt to be allocated seats, they will split the whole family up and allocate seats all over the plane.

“In our case, three middle seats on three different rows. When I tried to change the seats, I had to pay €20 going out and €18 coming back, and they still changed my mum’s seat after I had paid.

Families were being split up. The chaos caused on the plane is crazy, as passengers tried to swap seats with each other so as to be seated near family.

Ryanair gives its passengers the option of having a seat randomly allocated to them or of paying extra to choose their seat.

In a statement to responding to passengers’ complaints, the airline said it has not changed its random seat allocation policy.

“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 95%, 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.”

The spokesperson also denied that families with children are split up, stating: “We don’t separate families. We require families (with kids under 12) to sit together and we give all of the kids free of charge reserved seats to ensure that families are not and cannot be separated.”

‘Stressful for passengers and crew’ 

Louise Kelly recently flew with Ryanair from Dublin to Sofia in Bulgaria. She told us she checked in online shortly after check-in opened, a few days before the flight.

“To my surprise I was given seat 14E and my partner was given 24B.”

Kelly said she and her partner could see the flight wasn’t full at the time, based on the seats available when checking in.

“We decided to pay for one allocated seat and my partner booked 14F beside me. As soon as the booking went through for the paid one, my seat 14E was removed and it sent me a new boarding pass saying my seat was 00 and to be assigned at airport.

“I was horrified to witness the system purposely move me as soon as my partner chose to pay to sit beside me.”



2b Louise Kelly's boarding pass

Kelly said she received a number of messages via the Ryanair app in the subsequent days informing her that she could sit beside her partner if she paid a fee of €6.

She recognised that this isn’t a lot of money, but disagrees with the principle of moving a person’s seat after another passenger has already paid to sit beside them.

On the return flight, Kelly paid €7 to sit beside her partner. She said in this instance her partner’s seat was not moved.

Kelly said she has been flying with Ryanair regularly for 14 years and has never previously been separated from family or friends.


Kelly believes the practice is unfair and causing unnecessary stress for both passengers and crew members.

I feel it is stealing people’s peace of mind and adding further unnecessary stress to passengers. It’s not only upsetting for passengers – I have witnessed an already pressured crew trying to listen to passengers’ concerns of wanting to be seated together and not being able to facilitate this.

“It creates a lot of frustration all round.”

Read: Ryanair customers have been complaining about being seated rows apart on flights that aren’t full

Read: German and Italian airlines’ losses will be Ryanair’s gain as it orders more planes

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