Ryanair has said it would be prepared to work with online travel agents as part of a major shift in its distribution policy.

Details are due to emerge tomorrow at the airline’s annual shareholder meeting covering charges to its website, news agency Bloomberg reported.

Chief executive Michael O’Leary acknowledged at the World Low Cost Airlines conference at Heathrow yesterday that rival easyJet makes it easier for customers to book seats when compared to Ryanair.

A drive to block so-called screen scrapers that scan pricing data to lure clients on Ryanair’s web portal has produced a booking process that fails to lock in ticket sales early enough in the procedure and compares poorly to easyJet, O’Leary said.

“They have been much better on their website,” he told Bloomberg.

“They make the booking first. We have to make it easier. We have got to stop making it so difficult.”

O’Leary also said that Ryanair is prepared to sell tickets via online travel agents, which will allow it to target corporate buyers – an area where easyJet has been successful in attracting business travellers.

Any tie-in with travel agents would mark a significant change in the airline’s policy.

The company was the first to exploit the opportunity offered by the internet to move customers to booking flights direct online rather than going through conventional travel agents.

No mention was made of remuneration to agents in a report on O’Leary’s comments in today’s Irish Times.

He also indicated that Ryanair may also add a handful of longer routes including Israel and is open to co-operation with long-haul carriers following its long-term deal to expand services from Stansted.

Ryanair also remains interested in flying to the US under a new brand once new wide-body aircraft are more affordable, O’Leary said. He outlined a plan to take seven aircraft annually to build a fleet 40 to 50-strong.