OTAs’ Ryanair deals ‘underline challenges of sourcing flights’

The agency agreements signed between Ryanair and OTAs loveholidays and Kiwi.com highlight the challenge of securing flights in a market dominated by so few airlines, say senior industry figures.

Ryanair and loveholidays announced an agreement on January 23 “permitting the OTA to sell Ryanair flights and for the pair to share passenger information”, with loveholidays chief marketing officer Al Murray noting: “We’re delighted to be the world’s first Ryanair-approved package holiday provider.”

A second agreement on Monday between Ryanair and Kiwi saw the Czech-based OTA welcome the end of “a period of friction that impacted our customers”.

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There were no details, but the Ryanair-loveholidays announcement noted the agreement “guarantees customers will not be overcharged [and] will not need to complete Ryanair’s customer verification process”.

A senior industry source told Travel Weekly: “This is fantastic for loveholidays, although the agreement will be highly in Ryanair’s favour. It’s a challenge to package flights given the dominance of the no-frills carriers. The prices they pass on are ridiculous, but access to seats is key.”

Advantage Travel Partnership chief executive Julia Lo Bue-Said argued: “Ryanair is Europe’s largest airline. If you’re not able to access its content, what do you do?”

She said: “We access Ryanair through an approved channel, the GDS. Our members access Ryanair through tour operators and through Advantage Holidays. It’s not ideal. The GDS doesn’t give you all the content and there is a fee, but it enables our members.
“We have to deliver for consumers used to travelling from local airports and do it transparently.”

Alan Bowen, advisor to the Association of Atol Companies, agreed, saying: “There is nobody else. If you’re a large dynamic packager you need to deal with Ryanair, but deals are very much on Ryanair’s terms.”

He suggested: “Some agents just go on the Ryanair website [to book]. One large member has an API link with Ryanair and has agents phone to book Ryanair flights. There is clearly a substantial market for it.”

Hays Travel, the UK’s largest agency, does not sell Ryanair flights in branches, but its in-house tour operator offers bookings via the GDS.

Leading industry figures were divided in their reaction to the news. Blue Bay Travel chief executive Alistair Rowland, who is chair of Abta, said: “Fair play to loveholidays for doing whatever it needed to do. It has to be good for consumers.”

However, travel industry entrepreneur Steve Endacott called for an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) after submitting evidence which he said demonstrated “abuse by a dominant market player”. The CMA noted it has no powers to act on behalf of an individual customer or business.

Bowen said: “The reality is Ryanair can’t afford to do without the OTAs. Ryanair clearly isn’t going to lose out, but maybe it took a pragmatic view after its fall in profits.”

Ryanair reported a €15 million profit for the three months to December this week, down from €211 million the year before, noting its “running battle” with OTAs saw “many OTA pirates remove Ryanair flights from sale” in early December.

MoreOTA Loveholidays ‘world’s first’ Ryanair approved package provider

Ryanair forges new deal with OTA ‘pirate’ Kiwi.com

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