by Annabel Fenwick Elliott, The Telegraph, May 15, 2018
Ryanair is shortening the window of time during which passengers can check in online before a flight for free, from four days to 48 hours.
Europe's largest budget carrier is implementing the new policy from June 13, and it means customers have less time to download or print their boarding passes. Failure to do so means paying a £55 fee at the airport.
Passengers can, however, check-in and download their boarding passes on the Ryanair app up to two hours before their flight departure, and those who pay an extra £4 after booking their flight can still choose their seats and check in up to 60 days in advance.
Those who don't pay to reserve a seat, and who check in within 48 hours online, will be seated at random.
Don't like it? Customers who have already booked to travel with Ryanair after June 13 have until May 19 to cancel their booking for a full refund, should they wish.
Hasn't Ryanair done this before?
Yes. Two years ago passengers had a full seven days to check in ahead of their flight, meaning in many cases that passengers could claim their boarding pass for both legs of their upcoming journey at the same time.
That time frame was reduced to four days in 2016. Now it's being halved again.
As is generally the case for any low-cost airline, to squeeze some extra cash out of passengers. For many, £4 is a small price to pay in order to get the seat they want, and to check in online with plenty of time in advance.
For others, in particular families who want to ensure they're sitting together, this cost does start to stack up.
Tweets have started flooding in following the announcement of the new policy.
@Ryanair I'm confused by your new check in rules. I now have to check in online between 48-2 hours before my flight. What happens when I'm on holiday and have no way of getting online or to a printer before my journey?— Kara Newsome (@KaraNewsome1) May 14, 2018
It's no big deal but it is another way of trying to get that extra few pounds/euros out of passengers.— Phil Bradish (@BradOwl) May 15, 2018
Poor show. @Ryanair have just changed another policy. Possibly the only decent one they had. No more check in 60 days before OR choice of seat-unless you’ve paid for a reserved seat. You will RANDOMLY be allocated a seat when you check in 48 hours to 2 hr #familytravel#avgeekpic.twitter.com/YJAHJDPmhF— Flying With A Baby (@flyingwithbaby) May 14, 2018
To be fair, this 48-hour window is still relatively generous when compared to other airlines. "It's double the 24-hour check-in period operated by Aer Lingus, British Airways, Lufthansa, Norwegian and Iberia," a spokesperson for Ryanair told Telegraph Travel.
What is Ryanair's 'random seating' policy?
It's fairly simple. Passengers who don't pay to reserve their seats will be allocated one at random. This means you may well be separated from your travel companion.
Last summer Ryanair came under heavy fire over the frequency with which its passengers who chose not to pay for selected seats were split up on flights.
Passengers also accused the airline of “punishing” those who did not pay for seat reservation by placing them in a middle seat. One story to emerge told how a party of 23 found themselves sat in a line, each occupying a middle seat, across 23 different rows.
The airline denied that it split up groups deliberately. It did concede that it tries to “keep window and aisle seats free” but that the remaining seats are still “randomly allocated”.
The flurry of complaints prompted the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to step in and carry out an investigation.
In its initial survey of 4,000 travellers, the CAA found that Ryanair passengers were the most likely to be “separated from their group” having chosen not to pay to select a seat, with 35 per cent of fliers split up.
Emirates was second with 22 per cent, while Virgin Atlantic was third with 18 per cent. Across all respondents and airlines, on average 18 per cent of passengers were split from their group.