Amid an on-going dispute between Ryanair and online travel agencies (OTAs), the airline has revealed in a press statement announcing its December traffic that it also welcomed the removal of Ryanair flights from the websites of “most of the larger OTA Pirates (such as Booking.com, Kiwi, Kayak, etc.)”.
The Irish-based low-cost carrier has long been fighting against OTAs selling its flights, calling them “pirates” and claiming they greatly increase the prices of plane tickets with hidden mark-ups. “Ryanair will respond to this welcome removal of our flights from OTA Pirate websites, by lowering fares where necessary to encourage all passengers to book directly on Ryanair.com where they are guaranteed to always get the lowest air fares without OTA Pirate overcharges, fake contact info, or other pricing/refund scams”, the airline said.
Although Ryanair gave Booking.com, Kiwi and Kayak as examples of OTAs, a verification conducted by Skift revealed that, while Booking.com does not sell the Ryanair flights directly anymore, it links to another OTA, OneTravel.com, where customers can get Ryanair tickets. Kayak does not sell the flights, but links directly to the airline’s website, while Kiwi has indeed stop selling Ryanair tickets. Additionally, Skift found that Expedia, Trip.com and Lastminute.com also stopped selling Ryanair flights.
While welcoming the removal from OTAs, the airline praised “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.”
The airline said it expects the removal from OTAs to have a minimum, short-term impact, reducing load factors by 1% or 2% in December and January and softening short term yields. However, it expects no overall effect on load factors throughout 2024. Despite the removal from OTAs, Ryanair carried 12.54 million passengers in December 2023, 9% more than in December 2022.
“This welcome removal may be the result of pressure from Consumer Protection Agencies or a response to the recent Irish High Court ruling, which granted Ryanair a permanent injunction against screenscraper Flightbox from unlawfully scraping Ryanair.com content for OTA’s, or in response to Ryanair’s KYP (Know Your Passenger) customer initiatives such as verification”, the airline argued.
The KYP is an extra verification step the airline introduced in December, asking all customers who create a new Ryanair account to verify their identity, wither through facial recognition or signature cross check. However, a few months prior, Austrian group for the protection of digital rights nyob (from “none of your business”) filed a complained with the Spanish Data Protection Authority against Ryanair’s “invasive facial recognition” verification process required of passengers booking tickets through third party websites.
The complaint came after a woman in Spain received an e-mail from Ryanair, after booking her tickets through the online travel agency eDreams, informing her she needed to verify her identity to be allowed to board the flight. She could either do that online, through facial recognition, a process taking up to 7 days and costing 59 cents, or do it by checking in at the airport, for an additional fee of 30 to 55 euros.
At the time, the airline justified the verification process by saying that third party agencies “scrape Ryanair’s inventory and in many cases miss-sell our flights and ancillary services with hidden mark-ups, while providing incorrect customer contact information and payment details”.