Bizarre standing-only flights...

Air passengers might soon be able to fly from just £4 (R47), with ample leg room to boot. There's just one small catch - they'll have to stand.

Instead of being allocated a seat, Ryanair travellers would perch on a narrow shelf and lean against a flat padded backboard. They would be restrained with a strap stretching over their shoulder, the budget airline said.

But the bizarre initiative ran into an immediate obstacle. European aviation safety regulators said the perches would not meet safety rules.

Ryanair's chief executive Michael O'Leary went ahead regardless with his announcement of plans to remove the back 10 rows of seats from 250 planes and replace them with 15 rows of so-called "vertical seating".

Two lavatories at the back could also be removed, helping to allow up to 50 extra passengers on each flight.

O'Leary told ITV1's How to Beat the Budget Airlines that safety testing would begin next year, when a £1 charge to use toilets will be introduced. Ryanair hopes to phase in the perches on commuter flights of up to an hour, before expanding them to all aircraft.

Aviation law states that people have to have a seatbelt on for take-off, landing and turbulence.

A final decision on whether the perches meet the rules would rest with the European Aviation Safety Agency. But it dismissed the Ryanair plan as a stunt.

"To our knowledge, no airlines or other operators have made an application for stand-up seats," a spokesman said. "What they are proposing would be unprecedented and highly unlikely to be certified in the near future.

"Stand-up seating would require changes to European rules for the certification of aircraft. The current rules determine that each passenger has to be provided with 'a seat or, if they are immobile, a berth'. This is neither."

The publicity has certainly succeeded in distracting attention from Ryanair's controversial introduction this week of "big baggage" charge rises. Checking in a suitcase will cost up to £80 over the summer. The vertical seating idea also comes days after the airline announced it was slashing its winter services by 16 percent.

Boeing, which supplies Ryanair's fleet of 273 737-800 passenger jets, said: "We are not considering standing-only accommodations.

"Stringent regulatory requirements - including seats capable of withstanding a force of 16 times gravity - pretty much preclude such an arrangement."

But Ryanair spokesman Stephen McNamara said: "We are confident the seats can pass safety tests. Boeing can put a man on the moon so I am sure they are able to make these a success.

"Seats are lighter and the carbon footprint will be smaller, as more seats fit into a smaller area." - Daily Mail

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