Ryanair has been accused of “besmirching” online travel businesses with “aggressive anti-competition marketing campaigns” as a long-running dispute between the digital platforms and the airline rumbles on.
Earlier this week, the Dublin-based carrier said that online travel agents (OTAs) were “misleading” passengers with “clickbait to lure customers in before hitting them with hidden mark-ups”.
A dossier compiled by the airline and seen by City A.M. claims to show a slew of OTAs, including Opodo, eDreams and Kiwi.com, charging hidden mark-ups of “up to 200 per cent in some cases” for things like baggage storage and seat allocation.
Responding to the dossier, Luca Concone, chief executive of Lastminute.com, told City A.M. that Ryanair has “held a long-established policy of besmirching the OTA business with aggressive anti-competition marketing campaigns”.
Concone argued Lastminute.com offers a “superior booking experience,” and that adding service fees was a “common practice, not specific to Ryanair.”
The airline’s approach “flies in the face” of the sector’s attempts to rebuild sliding consumer confidence and trust in the travel industry, he continued.
The dispute between Ryanair and OTAs has been ongoing for years and has resulted in a number of significant court cases.
Earlier this month, a host of OTAs, including Booking.com, Expedia and Skyscanner urged UK regulators to investigate Ryanair for “infringements of customers’ data privacy rights” through its stringent online verification process for third-party bookings.
Airlines generally prefer passengers to book directly with themselves so they can charge for add-on fees, in-flight offers and specific seat allocation.
Revenue from non-ticket sources or ‘ancillary’ revenue made up a third of Ryanair’s earnings in its most recent quarterly results.
The low-cost carrier’s dossier claims that Kiwi.com – who operate in the Czech Republic, London and US – had priced its “allocated seating” add-on at well over double the carrier’s fee and charges for a slew of offerings and ancillaries that Ryanair offers for free.
In a statement today, Kiwi.com said that “Ryanair’s ‘audits’ do not consider the bigger picture.”
The travel firm argued the airline had “hand picked” comparisons from the search function, which do not show what a customer actually books.
This could include combination of flights from different airlines in one itinerary plus a range of services that brings the overall price down.
Online Travel UK – an association of UK online travel businesses – described the airline’s claims as “spurious.”
“Ryanair is the only airline, as far as we are aware, which makes these spurious claims regarding bookings via online travel companies, and it is the only one imposing invasive and unnecessary online verification processes on our customers.”
Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s chief executive, said OTAs had been engaged in “rampant internet piracy” and were “overcharging consumers for air fares or ancillary services.”
“These internet pirates’ business models can only survive if they manage to overcharge consumers for air fares or ancillary services which they know are lower priced on Ryanair’s website,” he said.