Ryanair told to fill 'unpaid-for' seats at emergency exits
RYANAIR has been told that passengers must sit beside emergency exits -- even if they haven't paid the €10 charged by the airline for the seats, which have more leg room.
The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) says the seats must have a passenger sitting in them at all times to open the safety doors in case of an emergency.
Having nobody beside the exits could result in an "inadequate level of safety" and "hinder or delay" evacuation, the air safety chiefs said.
Ryanair and other airlines charge passengers extra to sit on these seats, but the IAA was worried the budget airline was leaving the seats vacant if no customers paid the charge.
It has now directed the airline to change its policy.
"They have to make sure the seats are occupied, whether they are paid for or not," an IAA spokeswoman said.
A letter from IAA, sent to other European airline regulators and the European Commission, says it has no objection to the extra €10 -- but does not want the seats left empty.
And it has now directed Ryanair to have people in the emergency aisles at all times, meaning some passengers could get a more comfortable seat without forking out €10, if the seats haven't already been taken.
The letter, seen by the Irish Independent, says: "An Irish air operator introduced a procedure which does not permit passengers to occupy certain seats if an extra charge is not paid".
Not allowing people in the seats "resulted on occasions in seats at overwing emergency exits (self help) being left unmanned for taxi, take off and landing. The authority has identified this as a problem resulting in an inadequate level of safety that can hinder or delay the passenger evacuation process in the event of an emergency."
Emergency exit seats are usually in the first four rows and in the middle of a plane. The seats are popular because they offer more leg room. Because of the IAA's ruling, Ryanair said it will change its rules. Stephen McNamara, the airline's spokesman, said: "We are revising our boarding procedures and briefing our crews at all bases to comply with this requirement from June 1, 2012".