Ryanair has released a statement denying it has made changes to its random seat allocation policy, following claims the carrier has been splitting up passengers who choose not to pay for allocated seating.

There has been a sharp increase in customers complaining about being seated apart on Twitter, with some travellers reporting being seated at opposite ends of the aircraft from their companions, and an article by The Sun reporting that a hen party was seated across 15 separate rows.

In response the carrier said that it hadn’t changed its random seat allocation policy, adding that “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”.

Standard check-in for Ryanair flights opens four days before departure (those paying for allocated seats can avail of early check-in up to 60 days before their flight).

“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,” continued the statement. “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 per cent, we have to keep these window and aisle seats free to facilitate those customers who are willing to pay (from €2) for them”.

Ryanair stressed that “We are not trying to force people to pay for reserved seats”, adding that “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 seats (usually window or aisle) which start from €2”.

Rival carrier Easyjet allows all customers to check-in 30 days before departure, and says on its website that “If you haven’t booked seats then the best chance of sitting together with family and friends is to check in as early as possible”.

“Our seating system will always try to sit you together. There are usually plenty of seats available, but seats are allocated on a first come first served basis so the earlier you check in the more likely you are to sit together.

“Check in opens 30 days before your departure. If you leave it to the last minute it’s likely that there won’t be enough seats for your group to sit together and we’ll then have to rely on other customers agreeing to move once on board the aircraft which can be stressful and cause delays.”

Ryanair’s seating policy is currently being discussed on our forum here.