BBC Watchdog, ran its own investigation to test how random Ryanair's seating algorithm is following complaints from passengers all being allocated middle seats when checking into their flights. As part of their tests, four people were sent on four separate Ryanair flights. In each instance every single person was allocated a middle seat. I was then invited to analyse the data, to work-out the chances of every person getting a middle seat allocated randomly.

 

By looking at the amount of window, aisle and middle seating available on each flight, at the time of check-in, I calculated the chances of all four people being randomly given middle seats on each of the flights, to be around 1:540,000,000. The chances of winning the National Lottery jackpot are 1:45,000,000. (This means that you are 10 times more likely to win the lottery than be in a group who are all randomly allocated middle seats.) I appeared on the show in June 2017 to discuss my findings.

This story was picked up by a number of news outlets (you can see examples here, here and here) and a subsequent interview resulted in Ryanair admitting that they had in fact been holding back window and aisle seats for those willing to pay for them (you can see examples here, here and here). BBC World Service ran a More or Less episode which also featured this story, which you can listen to here. I also wrote an article on the statistical calculations that I had carried out, which can be found here.

 

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