On the Beach has started a fightback against budget carriers such as Ryanair restricting OTAs from access to their fares.
The company has issued a white paper urging action by the competition watchdog.
The document contains data from 3,000 UK holidaymakers claiming support for its calls for regulators to stop “aggressive tactics” being used by some low-cost airlines to limit choice and drive out competition from OTAs.
It wants to see:
- A full market review conducted by the Competitions and Markets Authority
- Airlines to be mandated to provide OTAs with access to flight information and seat-only prices on a “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory basis”
- A Code of Conduct for airlines and OTAs to operate and work together for the benefit of consumers.
On the Beach is urging UK holidaymakers to write to their local MP to support calls for regulatory action.
The white paper reveals that 70% of consumers believe low cost carriers should not hinder companies from packaging flights with hotels.
On the Beach claims that Ryanair prevents OTAs from booking seats for their customers by blocking bookings including by rejecting their credit cards.
It also accuses budget carriers of “strategically reducing” seat-only availability for OTAs in a bid to push direct bookings.
Ryanair has attacked OTAs as “screenscrapers” and “internet pirates” – scare tactics On the Beach suggests is being employed to deter direct bookings with OTAs.
On the Beach had to refund customers directly for Covid cancellations and is currently suing Ryanair for more than £2 million.
The research disclosed in the paper found that 67% of consumers stated that booking with an OTA as a flight inclusive package with benefits from the Package Travel Regulations and Atol protection was “extremely important” to them when choosing who to book their holiday with.
The same percentage said being able to build a package with flight seats and hotels from different providers means they can find the best value holiday, while 70% believe it is unfair to be penalised for not booking their flight and the hotel with the same provider.
On the Beach chief executive Shaun Morton said: “Millions of people book with online travel agents every year because they can access choice, value and Atol protected package holidays – and consumers have told us these things are really important to them.
“This is under threat because low-cost airlines are taking advantage of their market power and using anti-competitive behaviours, scaremongering tactics and smear campaigns to remove consumer choice, degrade the customer experience and purposefully make life difficult for online travel agents.
“Without urgent intervention, the UK travel sector will become dominated by a very small number of airline players which should be of huge concern for everyone.
“My hope is that the CMA will act quickly to safeguard consumer choice because if not, competition will reduce, adherence to regulations and customer service will deteriorate further, and holiday prices will only increase.”
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