Editor’s letter: Ryanair rebuff masks dilemma for travel agents

TWgroup editor Lucy HuxleyAs we report this week, the trade has successfully opposed plans for Ryanair to offer subsidised flights to Cyprus – another charter stronghold in its sights.

No such victory was possible when the same no-frills carrier did a similar deal with the Canary Islands, much to the annoyance of Thomas Cook boss Manny Fontenla-Novoa.

But there’s no denying the power that the likes of Ryanair wield, and the willingness with which destinations are prepared to do deals enticed by the prospect of hundreds of thousands of extra visitors.

While established players with positions to defend might feel threatened by this, others in the industry regard it as an opportunity. In the words of Paul Evans, Lowcost Travel Group chief executive: “I see future short and medium-haul programmes dominated by no-frills carriers with online hotel and dynamic package companies attached.”

He said he felt “absolutely sure” the traditional operator-dominated package market would “continue to drop at an alarming rate”. And he brushed off “scare stories” surrounding recent collapses, saying “bed banks, serious online players and no-frills carriers” would prosper by offering the flexibility and low prices customers crave.

This might sound alarming to many amid all the concerns about discounting and low margins in the industry.

But as our Lates Watch on current trading shows prices are up, due in no small part to charter capacity being in line with demand. The dilemma for many agents is that if they have to ‘stack it high, sell it cheap’, no-frills carriers might increasingly be their only option.

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