Low-cost carrier Ryanair's decision to break with long-established practice and trial reserved seating on board its services has been driven by passenger feedback, particularly from the business community.
The trial is limited in scope, both in the numbers of seats and routes available. From 16 May, the front two rows, plus two overwing exit rows of seats, will be available to book on the Irish carrier's Dublin-Malaga and Dublin-London Gatwick routes. This will give 24 reserved seats on each of the carrier's Boeing 737-800s.
Spokesman Stephen McNamara says that the impetus for the trial comes from passenger feedback surveys, with business travellers and taller passengers commenting that they would value reserved seating. This is particularly so on flights that carry a healthy percentage of business passengers, such as the Dublin-Gatwick sector. Business passengers want an early exit from the aircraft on arrival, while taller passengers seek extra legroom.
He adds that the carrier also anticipates that reserved seating in the extended-legroom overwing exit rows may be popular on Ryanair's longer-duration flights, such as those from the UK and Ireland to the Canary Islands.
The trial will have no set length, "but I would think it would be fairly evident from one to two months in whether or not it's going to be popular", says McNamara. If there is sufficient demand, then reserved seating will be rolled out on other, selected routes.
Ryanair will charge €10 ($14) for each reserved sector, which will include priority boarding. The carrier will continue also to offer priority boarding alone, as a separate option.