Ryanair has accused online travel agents of misleading customers and causing problems when passengers need to change flights, in an ongoing spat with the third-party booking sites.
Since its launch in 1984, the budget Irish carrier has developed a reputation itself for poor customer service and charging extra fees for items considered basic by some other operators. But now it has pointed the finger at online travel agents (OTAs), claiming they are the ones who are price gouging and making life difficult for customers who need to manage their bookings.
In a swingeing statement issued on 3 July 2023 on Ryanair’s website, Marketing, Digital and Communications Director, Dara Brady, said OTAs: “continue to mislead passengers to believe they are getting the cheapest price by falsely advertising lower fares than the airline.”
These ‘discounted fares’ are often nothing but clickbait to lure customers before hitting them with markups of up to 200%.Dara Brady, Marketing, Digital and Communications Director of Ryanair
Brady’s acerbic remarks follow an official complaint about Ryanair’s data collection practices from Austrian consumer rights group, None of Your Business (nyob). The carrier requires customers who book through third parties to use facial recognition technology to identify themselves. Nyob says the procedure is “intrusive” and seems to be an attempt to “obtain an unfair competitive advantage over alternative booking channels”.
3. “The OTAs were nowhere to be seen”
Now Ryanair has hit back. In an apparent attempt to justify the airline’s processes, Brady noted: “Many OTAs provide Ryanair with incorrect email addresses for passengers meaning we can’t communicate with passengers directly to share essential flight information and updates, including potential departure time changes. Many OTAs also withhold booking details from passengers, which blocks passengers from accessing and managing their bookings themselves.”
Brady added: “We saw this issue last week when OTA customers travelling to and from Rhodes during the forest fires were unable to access their bookings to avail of Ryanair’s free change-of-flight option. The OTAs were nowhere to be seen.”
He defended Ryanair’s record, highlighting the way the airline has “long campaigned to protect customers from the malpractices of OTAs.”
Ryanair’s Communications Director also distinguished between the carrier and OTAs, observing: “Ryanair does not have any commercial relationship with OTAs, and OTAs are not authorised by Ryanair to sell its flights.
His advice to customers? “The best way for customers to protect themselves from OTAs is to only book where they see the Ryanair verified seal.”