Airline has ‘sought to exploit the Covid-19 pandemic to exert financial pressure’, travel agent alleges
Online travel agent On the Beach has filed a High Court claim against Ryanair, claiming the budget airline “wants to eliminate” online travel agents (OTAs) “as a source of competition”.
In court documents seen by industry publication Travel Weekly, the travel bookings website accuses the airline of a “concerted smear campaign of false allegations” and of breaching the Competition Act.
According to On the Beach (OTB), the carrier is “aggressively seeking to eliminate competition from On the Beach and other OTAs in the UK and throughout the EU/EEA. Such strategies include multiple litigations against OTAs and/or their service providers.”
It argues that “Ryanair has repeatedly and publicly made claims about OTAs, including OTB, that are disparaging and untrue”. These include allegations that On the Beach provides “fake information” about customers, “uses ‘fake credit cards’” and “obstructs refunds”. All these claims are false, the brand says.
It also alleges that Ryanair has made bookings and refunds needlessly challenging for OTB’s customers over the past year, saying that since December 2020, “Ryanair has refused to allow OTB customers to manage their bookings or check in online”, while since July 2021 the airline has introduced an “online verification process” where OTB customers must “follow an onerous procedure”.
Referring to Ryanair’s refunds policy during the pandemic, OTB accuses the carrier of “withholding refunds from OTB customers”, saying the airline “has… sought to exploit the Covid-19 pandemic to exert financial pressure on OTB”.
“Ryanair’s motivation [est] to degrade the experience for OTB customers . . . [et] to take over the customer relationship,” say the documents.
In terms of the Competition Act, On the Beach says: “Ryanair has abused, and continues to abuse, its dominant positions… [au] essential routes for third-party package holiday organisers.”
On the Beach was founded in 2004 as a sister company to ski-booking website On the Piste, operated on a platform run by Teletext Holidays.
It specialises in short-haul “flight + hotel” packages, often bundling up budget flights from the likes of Ryanair and easyJet with its hotel rates to offer affordable packages.
Airlines prefer to deal with customers directly, especially in order to offer “ancillaries”, such as seat bookings, baggage allowance and other paid-for add-ons during the bookings process.
En mars, Ryanair’s chief executive Michael O’Leary referred to OTAs as “scam artists”, en disant: “OTAs are overcharging our customers and giving us fake details.”
L'indépendant has contacted Ryanair for comment.