Ryanair‘s CEO, Michael O’Leary, has hit back at a proposal to block out the middle seat on the Boeing 737 aircraft, labelling the social-distancing measure as “idiotic”.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr O’Leary said that removing one-third of capacity would spell the end of Ryanair’s cheap fares and that the proposal was “entirely ineffective”.

“We can’t make money on 66% load factors. The middle seat doesn’t deliver any social distancing, so it’s kind of an idiotic idea that doesn’t achieve anything anyway.”

Michael O’Leary, CEO Ryanair (via Financial Times)
Picture: Catarina Madureira (cm_lisbonspotter)

Blocking out the middle seat onboard aircraft has been widely promoted amongst Wall Street analysts, according to Business Insider.

The idea has been acknowledged by Alexandre de Juniac, the head of IATA, although he only specified that some governments may indeed mandate the restriction, in an interview with Reuters.

Delta Air Lines has already moved to block out middle seats aboard their aircraft until June 30th, in an effort to promote social distancing amongst staff and customers, according to an airline press release.

Speaking to the Financial Times, earlier this month, Mr O’Leary remained adamant on the issue, saying that “either the [Irish] government pays for the middle seat or we won’t fly”.

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary. Picture: Flickr/World Travel and Tourism Council

Mr O’Leary also warned that enacting social distancing measures onboard aircraft would mean that “cheap travel is over”. He said that by cutting such capacity, budget airlines would struggle to continue offering cheap fares to the paying public.

Ryanair is the world’s fifth-largest airline by passenger capacity. The Irish Times has reported that Ryanair is operating at less than 1% capacity; operating fewer than 20 of the usual 2500 flights per day.

Article Sources: Business Insider, Financial Times, Reuters, Delta and Irish Times.

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