The Irish airline, which is the biggest budget carrier in Europe, is making life tougher for travellers who choose not to pay extra for assigned seating.
Until two years ago, passengers could check in online up to a week before departure, which worked well for many people on seven-day holidays.
In 2016 Ryanair reduced the window for check in to just four days, saying the move was in response to “extensive customer feedback”.
Since May 2017, the airline has faced repeated criticism for assigning passengers travelling together seats far apart on the aircraft.
The airline responded by saying: “We are very happy to facilitate any customer who wants a free-of-charge random seat, but we are also going to do our best to facilitate customers who are willing to pay for a reserved seat.”
Earlier this year the Civil Aviation Authority announced an enquiry into airlines’ seating policies.
The Ryanair check-in window is about to narrow sharply. At present a passenger with a late flight at, say, 8pm on a Friday can check in from Monday morning onwards. But the new policy means free check-in will not open until 8pm on Wednesday.
Alternatively, passengers can pay a fee – typically £4 per person, per flight – for assigned seating, and check in up to two months ahead of departure.
The change applies to existing reservations as well as new bookings.
A Ryanair spokesperson told Independent.ie: “Standard (free) online check-in will be available from 48 hours to 2 hours pre-departure for all flights from 13th June onwards, in order to increase the choice and time available to customers who choose to pay for reserved seats.
“All Ryanair customers may buy a reserved seat online, both on the Ryanair.com website and mobile app from the time of booking up to 2 hours pre-departure and these customers can check in online anytime they so wish between 60 days and up to 2 hours before the scheduled departure time of their flight.
“All affected customers booked to travel from 13th June have been contacted by email and those who do not wish to accept this check-in policy change can cancel and request a full refund within 5 days (of this 14th May notification) after which the change will be regarded as implicitly accepted.
“Online check-in (for those customers who don’t choose reserved seats) will be available from 48 hours to 2 hours pre-departure for all flights from Wednesday, 13th June.
“This is more than double the 24 hour check-in period operated by British Airways, Lufthansa, Norwegian and Iberia. This will give reserve seat customers more time to select their preferred seats prior to departure.”