Comment: The cost of Loveholidays’ access to Ryanair flights

As usual, the biggest loser is the customer, warns Steve Endacott

Initially, I was pleased to see that Ryanair has finally succumbed to common sense and decided to work in conjunction with Loveholidays to create ‘officially’ authorised Ryanair.

Seats are being provided via an API integration, with Loveholidays passing all customer details to Ryanair so that customers can login to ‘My Ryanair’ to check in, download boarding passes or amend flights.

Loveholidays, which has been looking for new owners for the last 18 months, needed this deal urgently to reassure potential buyers that they will have access to airline flight seats moving forward.

With easyJet holidays rapidly expanding its Holiday division, Loveholidays suffered from a strategic risk regarding how many seats easyJet will allow OTA’s to access when the OTA is effectively creating a package to compete with the airline’s in-house tour operation. Combine this with Jet2, now selling 80% of seats as packages on many leisure routes, and you quickly see how important access to Ryanair seats is.

However, what cost is this access coming at?

The Loveholidays site now explicitly tells the customer how much of the package is being paid to Ryanair, so comparing these prices with the equivalent flight-only prices on the Ryanair site is relatively simple.

Amazingly, unlike easyJet, which charges a fixed per passenger per sector API fee, Ryanair appears free to yield the fee as it sees fit.

For example, the fee is £27.00 on many flights, but on routes with little competition, like Bournemouth to Majorca, it jumps to £50.90 for a booking of 2 adults. Knowing Ryanair, these ‘surcharges’ will only get bigger.

The fee is also highly hypocritical, given that Ryanair has been campaigning against OTAs, accusing them of being ‘pirates’, marking up prices and charging customers more than they would have paid if they booked on the Ryanair site. However, it’s OK for this to happen if Ryanair receives the surcharge in their pockets!! 100% typical Ryanair customer service attitude.

I have long thought that Ryanair’s anti-OTA stance was nothing more than a tactic to push agents into a corner so that Ryanair could impose terms of their choice to allow agents to package their flights.

Loveholidays’ need to find a new owner has clearly forced them to do a deal with the Ryanair Devil on the Devil’s terms.

I must confess that I would have done the same in Loveholidays’ situation, but the winner is clearly Ryanair and the other low-cost carriers’ holiday divisions, whose packages suddenly look better value.

Unfortunately, as usual, the biggest loser is the customer, who will end up paying more for their Loveholidays packages.

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