Ryanair today stepped up its war of words against online travel agencies by listing firms the budget airline claims are overcharging consumers.
The carrier released data for November identifying Kiwi.com, lastminute.com, Opodo and eDreams for adding “unjustified fees and charges”.
Chief executive Michael O’Leary accused the Civil Aviation Authority and the Competition and Markets Authority of ignoring “rampant internet piracy and anti-consumer mis-selling” by OTAs.
He claimed the firms were charging for services provided by Ryanair free of cost, and of “massively over charging” for the carrier’s ancillary services, “frequently charging three or four times” the price.
“Ryanair continues to campaign against these OTA pirates and continues to call upon governments and consumer agencies to take action to prevent this internet piracy and blatant anti-consumer mis-selling,” O’Leary said.
“It gives us no pleasure to rank Kiwi.com as Europe’s biggest OTA pirate in our November survey, charging unsuspecting consumers €24.40 for an allocated seat which cost just €5.50 on Ryanair.com.”
A group of companies including Booking.com, Expedia and Skyscanner wrote to the CMA, the CAA and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in August accusing Ryanair of “invasive, unnecessary and unfair” treatment of their customers.
They suggested Ryanair “may be breaching UK data protection rules” by requiring customers booking through third-party sites to provide personal information to manage their booking or check in online.
The group claimed the carrier’s “real motivation” was to drive bookings direct.
But Ryanair described the claims as “false” and insisted its requirements were “designed to ensure it can communicate with passengers directly and not via an OTA bot”.
A Kiwi.com spokesperson said: “With the multiple investigations by Europe-wide consumer organisations and competition authorities looking into the actions of Ryanair, it comes as no surprise that we see yet another PR blitz from them in an attempt to divert attention and slur the reputations of the competition, using hand-selected information not reflective of the much bigger scale of combinations and options that OTAs bring their customers and Ryanair can’t.
“This PR attack is another action by them to deter customers from booking with OTAs and comes on top of the implementation of an unnecessary so-called verification process by Ryanair earlier this year that is being investigated, and which we, and many others in the industry see as being designed to penalise consumers who wish to have the freedom to choose from all the options available to them.
“The Organisation of Consumers and Users (OCU) in Spain has accused the airline of ‘malpractice’ for forcing passengers to pay extra to check in at the airport, particularly those who book their flights through a travel agent or another third party.”