Ryanair booking separates mum and tot

Published Friday, 14 February 2014
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A Co Londonderry mum has raised serious concerns over Ryanair flight booking procedures which saw her allocated a seat 16 rows away from her four-year-old daughter.

Ryanair booking separates mum and tot
Ryanair passengers now have to pay to choose to sit beside travel companions. (© ITV)

Since the start of February, Ryanair has been allocating seats at random unless passengers pay an extra charge of up to £10 to choose to sit together - even if they have booked together.

Fiona Buchanan, from Newbuildings, was making arrangements to travel from Derry to London to visit a sick family member and assumed that the rule would not apply to young children.

But, while her one-year-old daughter was required to sit on her lap as is common practice for infants, her four-year-old was separated from them.

According to the boarding passes, little Mollie would have to sit in Row 8 and her mum would be back in Row 24.

Having not realised until the boarding cards were printed and she was unable to go back and pay the extra charges, Fiona is now worried about her daughter being left with strangers during their flight.

She is left asking how she is supposed to supervise the little girl, and what would happen in the event of an emergency.

When I went and spoke to Ryanair, they said: 'You should have paid the premium.'

Fiona Buchanan

When contacted by UTV, Ryanair pointed to the FAQs on their website and quoted one of the points.

"We will endeavour to seat families together, however this will not always be possible. If you want to be guaranteed seats together we recommend that seats are purchased," it says.

"If you chose not to select and purchase a seat and have been randomly allocated seats which are not together, please contact our call centre so that we may try to assist you."

UTV further questioned how separating a four-year-old from her mother complies with the airline's own policy of not carrying unaccompanied minors under the age of 16.

But the subsequent response simply reiterated that position.

Fiona has been advised that "cabin crew discretion" may be used to make changes to the seating plan after boarding - but, while she is hopeful that will happen, there is no guarantee.

On the return flight, which it transpires was not full at the time of booking, she and Mollie have been seated in the same row but not beside each other.

"Why should I have to have the privilege of sitting next to my daughter? There is a duty of care surely," Fiona said, speaking about their outbound flight.

"Adults, yes, not a problem - by all means, pay the fee.

"If she was in the same row or in the row in front, maybe I could cope with it for the short flight that we're on. But she's 16 rows away at the front and I'm at the back."

Ryanair does not carry unaccompanied minors under 16 years.


Fiona feels she, and other parents are being pressured into paying the extra charges - which apply to each individual seat. For a family of four, for example, to book seats together, the extra charge could be up to £40.

"I've already paid £150 for the flight, so what is that actually going towards?" Fiona added.

When the situation was discussed on U105's Frank Mitchell Show, some callers said they would pay the charge for the sake of sitting beside their child.

But many others felt that there should not be any question of young children being separated from their family, raising issues including health and safety and child protection.

One caller also added that it was unfair on other adult passengers - some of whom may actually have paid the charge to choose their own seat beside travel companions - to effectively force them to take a degree of responsibility for someone else's child.

Fiona says the episode has put her off flying with Ryanair, but had she not been caught off-guard by the extra charge and already printed the tickets, she would have reluctantly paid it on this occasion.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
steveo in OXFORD wrote (245 days ago):
I had the same issue when printing the boarding passes. I called Ryanair reservations (10p per minute) waited 2 minutes to speak to an operator, they were very helpful and they re-issued the boarding passes, the only cost was about 80p for the phone call. An email was sent with new boarding passes, this was done a day before the flight and took about 10minutes to resolve. There is a flaw with the system that Ryanair need to resolve.
steve-o in oxford wrote (246 days ago):
From the CAA's website: Families, children and infants The seating of children close by their parents or guardians should be the aim of airline seat allocation procedures for family groups and large parties of children. Young children and infants who are accompanied by adults, should ideally be seated in the same seat row as the adult. Children and accompanying adults should not be separated by more than one aisle. Where this is not possible, children should be separated by no more than one seat row from accompanying adults. This is because the speed of an emergency evacuation may be affected by adults trying to reach their children. Whenever a number of infants and children are travelling together the airline should make every effort to ensure that they can be readily supervised by the responsible accompanying adults
steve in UK wrote (254 days ago):
Nothing to do with seating at all - but calling the policy 'allocating extra cash to Ryanair' as another 'optional charge' would not be so 'customer friendly'.
kelvin meyler in Wales wrote (291 days ago):
What happened to Ryanair's new customer friendly service that they were not going to pea customers off anymore, that was short lived.
Gerry in Belfast wrote (345 days ago):
bigmac and paul - you're both spot on. No amount of money - never mind a paltry £10 - should be too much for anyone to spend on the safety and well being of their children.
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