"Stop whining" - Michael O'Leary defends Ryanair seating policy

"If you don't want to pay the €2, that's fine, we understand - but then you take a random seat"

"Stop whining" - Michael O'Leary defends Ryanair seating policy

Picture by: Niall Carson/PA Archive/PA Images

The CEO of Ryanair has denied claims that the airline's deliberately splitting up group bookings so passengers have to pay to sit together.

Some customers have recently accused the airline of separating people on board the flight because they did not pay for specific seats.

Customers can reserve allocated seats for an extra €2, with €7 or €11 add-ons for priority booking or seats with extra leg room.

However, the company's CEO insists that their policy has not changed.

Michael O'Leary spoke to George Hook on High Noon today, and responded to recent media coverage of customer complaints. 

O'Leary observed: "We don't separate families, because we require the families to sit together. But there is some controversy at the moment over some people who are whinging on about having to but a reserved seat for €2 if they want to sit beside somebody.

"The policy has been the same now for about two years. If you want a free-of-charge, random seat... that's what you're getting - a random seat. If you're not happy with that, buy a reserved seat and sit where you like.

He added: "Stop whining - if you don't want to pay the €2, that's fine, we understand - but then you take a random seat."

"It's your choice"

Ryanair has made very public efforts in recent years to paint themselves as a more customer-friendly company than they were in the past, and O'Leary was keen to defend their current 'no-frills' approach.

He argued: "The great things about the add-ons is they're all entirely each customer's choice. If you don't want them, don't add them on - it's your choice.

"We have about 50% of our customers now paying for reserved seats - that's around 65 million customers [...] We have 65 million who don't care where they sit, and they're happy to sit wherever they're allocated randomly by the computer. We get a couple of people then whining on."

Ultimately, he believes this is all part of a changing approach in the airline industry - and a move towards lower fares.

He suggested: "If some people complain because they suddenly have to pay for something they used to get for free when they were paying 200 quid to Aer Lingus... then it's our job to educate them."