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Ryanair’s Take on Social Distancing With the Middle Seat

As the coronavirus crisis continues, airlines are adopting new social distancing practices. One practice, in particular, has become a subject of debate for Ryanair – leaving the middle seat open.

Keeping the middle seat vacant is a new practice that has been widely adopted by carriers across the globe, but, according to Ryanair CEO’s, the idea is “idiotic.” In an interview, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary explained that the idea of leaving the middle seat open is not possible for the airline’s business model because to be profitable, it requires a high load factor. He explained, “We can’t make money on 66 percent load factors. Even if you do that, the middle seat doesn’t deliver any social distancing, so it’s kind of an idiotic idea that doesn’t achieve anything anyway.” O’Leary believes that once Ryanair starts flying again, it will see load factors of 40% in July, 50% to 60% in August and September, and up to 80% by October (assuming flying resumes by July). Hence the CEO’s refusal to fly without the option to fill the middle seat. Because according to him, he’ll have the demand to fill them by fall.

O’Leary went on to say that Ryanair would not continue flying if it has to keep the middle seat open and that the Irish government would need to pay for those seats if they make it a rule. He suggested that instead, Europe should do what Asia has been doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as checking temperatures at the airport or forcing people to wear masks.

Other Airlines Will Leave it Vacant

Meanwhile, easyJet said that it would leave the middle seat open once it returns to flying. The airline explained their reasoning, “Our assumption is that load factors will not be back to normal early on, which means that we will have the opportunity for a middle-seat option, but I’m talking about this as an initial phase and nobody knows for how long that phase will be.” Other airlines, such as Emirates, American, and Delta have also announced they will be keeping the middle seat vacant to practice social distancing.

Do you agree with Ryanair’s CEO? Let us know in the comments!

AX9465 April 29, 2020

Fully agree - keeping middle seat free is an idiotic decision as it will not go anywhere near creating safe distance. if all aisle seats are occupied and you walk the length of the plane, you will be in close contact with 50% of passengers. So if we assume there is a possibility of an infected passenger to be on the plane, the only degree of safety will be afforded by same protocol doctors do: gown, gloves and full-face respirator.

kkua April 27, 2020

Ryanair should get out of commercial flying business. Instead, they should focus on delivering humans like cargo, as they have always in the past. Those who fly on their planes should shut up and accept their mistreatment.

largeeyes April 27, 2020

It will be a long time before they reach 60% load factor, so what's the point in making a scene about it?

resolute April 24, 2020

F Ryanair.... that simple!

jayer April 24, 2020

Sometimes truth is not what we want it to be. Empty middle seats help passenger comfort immensely by getting back to a comfortable density. (Still does not help legroom, but I digress). But only small improvement for infection control, and it takes close to full loads to make any money. Unless we all are willing to pay more or go back to a regulated pricing model. Or just fly less.