Travel News

Ryanair Will Not Fly If They Cannot Stick Passengers In Middle Seats

Etihad First Apartment
Written by Charlie

Ryanair’s CEO is saying they could return 80% of their flights to the air by September. But, they won’t if they cannot put passengers in middle seats.

The time we are in is a time when industries the world over are having to improvise. Those businesses that cannot improvise face a potentially difficult stretch or a complete closure of their businesses. Airlines are one type of industry that is trying to improvise to deal with the current rules on things like social distancing. It turns out that the Ryanair CEO will not adapt to social distancing.

Ryanair Will Not Fly With Social Distancing Rules

Airlines are having to start moving passengers around the cabin with the middle seat staying empty. In other words, airlines are starting to offer the equivalent of European business class – without the great catering and lounge access.

During times when airlines are not having that many passengers (Delta says they only have 5% of their normal passenger load), this is not that difficult. But, if social distancing rules are to be maintained when customers start taking to the air again, it is going to put a pinch on airlines who use the middle seat as way to make passengers pay more.

EasyJet Will Leave the Middle Seat Empty

EasyJet is one of those budget airlines that charge for everything, like Ryanair. However, unlike Ryanair, EasyJet has already said they will keep those middle seats empty after lockdowns lift. Good for them and that is definitely something that will make their passengers happy – though they may have to start paying marginally more to compensate.

Ryanair Is Using the Middle Seats as Leverage

However, the Ryanair CEP, Michael O’Leary, is saying that they will not return to the air if the government tells them that they need to observe social distancing rules by keeping passengers out of the middle seat.

According to this article, they plan to resume 80% of their flights by September if air traffic begins to restart in July. But, they will not do that if they are unable to stick passengers in middle seats.

In a way, that middle seat is necessary to the way that Ryanair does business. The actual cost of a plane ticket on Ryanair (which can be ridiculously cheap) is really just like a small part of what is typical for customers to pay. Once the passenger has a ticket, it is then time to charge for bags, seat selection, boarding selection, cabin bag, water, snacks, etc.

Look at it like a baseball ticket – you get to be in the stadium for the game but imagine you have to pay to actually see the game, have a seat, drink water, use the bathroom, bring a baseball glove, etc.

So, without middle seats, Ryanair loses that way to leverage more money out of customers. Now, they are using it as leverage against the government’s potential order for social distancing on planes after the lockdowns.

Honestly, I don’t think it matters. I think there will be enough people worried enough that if Ryanair is not blocking middle seats, people will just choose to fly another airline that does block the middle seat. Or, maybe Ryanair will use social distancing as the new “business” class on Ryanair – get a full row to yourself for a huge upcharge.

Featured image by RuthannOC / flickr

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • Bluster pure bluster. or “who moved my cheese” If the only way you can get planes back in the air producing revenue by flying with center seats empty you will so say otherwise is simple crap. We all know that at some point down the road those seats will be filled but in the meantime zip the lips and put your planes back in the air, because if your not, your competitor will.

  • We know RyanAir has contempt for their passengers and goes out of their way to make things as uncomfortable as possible, however, this goes a step further and puts passengers at actual physical risk. If they don’t wanna fly, RyanAir can keep its planes on the ground and go bankrupt.

  • Who cares. O’Leary got his business model for running from the layout of the 17th century slave ships, packing humans head to toe. He loves it. He’s the Jeff Bezos of the air. A evil and weird sucker. Let him go bankrupt. I have never ever flown his plague ships and never ever will. No need to. Let him and his airline go bust. But this sucker has his hands out for government of Ireland, UK, and EU bailouts. A greedy sucker. He’ll take any currency to keep his personal wealth intact. Let him go bust!!!

  • Rob at Head For Points made a pretty convincing argument that ULCC’s don’t need to fill the middle seats to make flying worthwhile for them financially.