Ryanair is being investigated by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) over concerns that emergency exit seats have been left empty after it introduced an extra £10 charge for passengers to sit there.
The seats provide extra leg room, which is popular with many customers, but this extra room is primarily for the exit doors in the case of an emergency, and anyone who sits there is expected to follow directions and, if necessary, open the doors in the event of an emergency.
The extra charge has meant that these rows have been known to be left empty on take off, with passengers on surrounding seats asked to familiarise themselves with the evacuation procedure. Some passengers expressed doubts about being able to fully understand the instructions without sitting next to the exit itself.
This has also raised health and safety concerns from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA), who are keeping a watch on the situation.
A spokesperson from the CAA said: “Our guidance to UK-registered airlines is that whoever is sitting next to the emergency exit must be briefed about what to do. If that person says they are not willing to do it, then someone else must be found who is happy with that role.”
He added: “It’s an important task. It’s not easy to open the doors and they must be physically strong enough to throw them from the plane.”
A spokesman for Ryanair said it will cooperate with the IAA, but also added: “Ryanair complies with all mandatory safety directives. All passengers are provided with the same safety and evacuation information.”
(Please note that there are other airlines registered in Britain which also charge passengers extra to sit next to the emergency exit.)