Ryanair has said that it has seen a drop in the number of tickets it has been able to sell after a number of major online booking websites stripped the budget carrier’s flights from their listings.

Europe’s largest airline said that in early December “most” of the larger online travel agent sites – including Booking.com, Kiwi and Kayak – “suddenly removed Ryanair’s flights from sale on their websites”.

The airline said that while these travel sites only accounted for a “small fraction” of Ryanair’s bookings, the sudden removal had affected its load factor by “1% to 2%” in December and January, and would “soften short-term yields”.

Load factor is the percentage of available seats that an airline is able to sell on each flight. Ryanair said that it had responded by releasing more lower-priced fares to consumers directly through its own website.

In December, the airline announced a 10% discount sale on more than 400,000 fares for travel between January and the end of March.

Ryanair said the removal of its flights from the travel websites would not materially affect its full-year financial forecasts for passenger numbers or profits.

The company claimed it welcomed the move by the websites, alleging that many of them overcharge customers with extra fees.

“Ryanair will respond to this welcome removal of our flights from OTA [online travel agent] websites by lowering fares where necessary to encourage all passengers to book directly on Ryanair.com where they are guaranteed to always get the lowest fares without OTA overcharges, fake contact info, or other pricing/refund scams.”

Ryanair said it was not clear what the reason was behind its removal from the sites but said it may be down to a recent Irish high court ruling, which it said granted Ryanair a permanent injunction against the screenscraper Flightbox from “unlawfully scraping Ryanair.com content” for online travel agents.

The company said its flights were still available on some sites, such as Google Flights, which it said “do not add any hidden mark-ups” and direct consumers to complete their bookings on its own website.

On Wednesday, the airline released its latest update showing that passenger numbers rose 9% year on year in December but its load factor fell by one percentage point.

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More than 900 Ryanair flights were cancelled last month because of the Israel-Gaza war and the suspension of flights to Tel Aviv and neighbouring Jordan.

The update comes amid a long-running dispute between Ryanair and online booking sites, with the airline having launched legal action in the US against the Booking.com owner, Booking Holdings, and its subsidiaries, including Kayak, Agoda and Priceline.

Booking.com, Kiwi and Kayak were contacted for comment.

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