Travel

Ryanair and ‘Pirate’ Online Travel Agencies in Skirmish Over Flight Bookings


Skift Take

Booking.com can argue that it doesn’t used banned screen-scraping to access Ryanair flights. Meanwhile, Google, “an honest/transparent OTA,” can do no wrong in Ryanair’s eyes.

Ryanair said Wednesday that “most of the larger OTA Pirates” abruptly stopped selling its flights in early December. But at least one of them — Booking.com — was back offering Ryanair’s flights today.

Europe’s largest airline stated that Booking.com, sister company Kayak, and Kiwi were among the major online travel agencies that took Ryanair flights off their websites in early December. The carrier would therefore see load factors diminished by 1% to 2% in December and January. The airline doesn’t expect the loss of these bookings to materially impact its 2024 traffic or guidance.

Ryanair labels the online travel agencies “pirates” for allegedly stealing what the airline considers its proprietary information and intellectual property. The online travel agencies counter that they are trying to give their customers a comprehensive view of available flights, and it is anti-consumer for Ryanair to withhold the flight information.

The decision by some online travel agencies to stop selling Ryanair flights followed an Irish High Court decision in early December granting the airline a permanent injunction against a screen-scraper from accessing the airline’s flight and fare information without permission. Online travel agencies don’t have permission to grab Ryanair’s flight information and they likely obtain it via screen-scraping or through another online travel agency.

Ryanair’s Longstanding Conflict With Online Travel Agencies

Ryanair welcomed losing those online travel agency flight bookings because eliminating them has been a longstanding goal. The airline argues they inflate the airline’s fares and ancillary services like bag fees, and wreak havoc with customer service because Ryanair often receives “fake contact info,” for example.

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That’s because the online travel agencies are booking the flights on Ryanair rather than travelers doing it themselves. If a passenger requests a refund, as did untold numbers of them during the pandemic, Ryanair might not have their details because the online travel agencies owned the customer relationship.

Online Travel Agencies Selling Ryanair Flights and Those That Aren’t

Skift examined a number of online travel company websites on Wednesday, searching for Ryanair flights from London to Barcelona. Of the three online travel companies that Ryanair cited as ceasing to sell its flights in early December, Skift found that:

  • Booking.com was back selling those flights via a link to another online travel agency, Fareportal-owned OneTravel.com. Booking might argue it is not using a screen-scraper to obtain Ryanair’s flights but is accessing them through OneTravel.com. Booking.com didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
  • Kayak, which doesn’t sell flights but sends travelers to other websites for bookings, was linking off to Ryanair.com.
  • Kiwi wasn’t selling the airline’s flights.

A screenshot from Booking.com on January 3, 2024 selling Ryanair flights. Source: Booking.com

Another major European flight-seller, eDreams Odigeo, was indeed still selling Ryanair flights on Wednesday, as was Opodo.

Online travel agencies that did not appear to be selling Ryanair flights included:

  • Expedia
  • Trip.com
  • Lastminute.com

In publicizing the Irish court ruling against a screen-scraper in early December, Ryanair stated: “Ryanair does not have a commercial relationship with any OTA or screenscraper and we strongly object to OTAs mis-selling our flights and overcharging consumers. We encourage our customers to book directly with us through ryanair.com or our mobile app.”

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The airline published the following chart at the time allegedly showing how much some online travel “pirates” overcharged for Ryanair services, such as bag fees, priority boarding and seat assignments.

Online Travel Pirate Overcharges

Source: Ryanair

The airline praised Google Flights on Wednesday.

“Ryanair continues to make its fares available to honest/transparent OTA’s such as Google Flights, who do not add hidden mark ups to Ryanair prices and who direct passengers to make their bookings directly on the Ryanair.com website.”



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