Ryanair is to offer fully allocated seating from next year as the company issued its second profits warning in two months.
The no-frills airline will introduce the measure in response to complaints from passengers fed up with the rush to get onboard to secure the best seats.
From February 1 2014, travellers can pay £5 to select a specific seat when checking-in more than 24 hours before departure, or pay nothing and be automatically allocated a seat within 24 hours of departure.
The airline currently allows customers to pay an extra fee for certain rows of seats on its aircraft. This new move brings Ryanair into line with no-frills rival Easyjet which began allocated seating last year in an attempt to target more business travellers.
Ryanair also admitted that profits were going to be lower than previously expected for its current financial year – down from a forecast profit of €570 million to €510 million for the year ending in March 2014. The airline made a €569.3 million profit after tax last year.
The airline blamed “continuing fare and yield softness” for the likely drop in profits. The warning sent Ryanair shares tumbling by more than 9 per cent to €5.52 per share in trading on Monday.
Ryanair saw post-tax profits rise by just 1 per cent to €602 million in the six months to the end of September with passenger numbers up by 2 per cent to 49 million and revenue increasing by 5 per cent to €3.25 billion, although average fares dropped by 2 per cent over this period.
Chief executive Michael O’Leary blamed the fall of fares on factors such as this summer’s heatwave in Europe, industrial action by air traffic controllers and a weaker pound.
“Ryanair has responded to these market conditions by stimulating traffic growth with aggressive fare promotions,” added O’Leary.
“This will lay the foundation for traffic growth over the coming years, particularly as our new 175 aircraft deliver from September 2014.
“While fares are falling, ancillary revenues grew strongly by 22 per cent to €713 million, driven by the successful roll-out of reserved seating, priority boarding and higher credit/debit card fees.”
The move to fully allocated seating comes just two weeks after the airline said it would be reducing some of its other passenger charges and fees.