Ryanair is facing criticism on social media over its seating policy by passengers who find themselves split up from their travelling companions.

But the Irish no-frills airline rejected suggestions that updated seating procedures seek to persuade passengers to pay extra for assigned seats.

A spokesman told The Independent: “There is no change in Ryanair policy. When a customer does not purchase a seat, they are then randomly allocated a seat, which has always been our policy.

“Ninety five per cent of the seats on our flights are full, we are now in the peak summer travel season and we are carrying more customers, meaning there are now less seats to allocate randomly. Therefore, we advise customers who wish to sit with their travelling companions to purchase allocated seats, which start from €2.”

The airline’s chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs has responded on Twitter to passengers complaining about their seat assignments.

After Nick Mattinson of Tiptree in Essex tweeted to ask “explain please the logic in this my 2nd booking and Ryanair clearly deliberately separating us,” Jacobs responded: “A lot more customers want to reserve window and aisle seats. So most of the random seats are going to be middle.”

Mattinson came back to say: “Sure but this has never happened before in seven years. Only this year. EasyJet don’t do it. Puts me off flying with you again to be honest.”

This issue was highlighted last night on BBC Watchdog after being raised by MoneySavingExpert.com, which last week reported that 15 passengers in a hen party were allocated seats in 15 separate rows.