Ryanair, the no frills Irish airline, has announced that it will no longer honour bookings made via price comparison sites. In a shock move, it blames ‘screen-scraping’ websites for a loss of revenue claiming that these sites are illegal and slow down the company website.
According to many newspaper reports, price comparison websites indirectly book 1000 Ryanair tickets per day and, if Ryanair go through with their threat, these tickets will not be honoured.
As many as 1,000 people a day could be turned away at airport check-in desks next week despite having paid for their tickets.
The move could ruin the holiday plans of thousands of families who have booked cheap flights during the school summer break.
Source: Daily Mail
So what does this mean for the future of price comparison shopping websites and those web publishers who make money promoting them? Some of the most lucrative affiliate offerings available to online marketers are via price comparison sites so does this move by Ryanair spell the end for UK price comparison site affiliates?
In the article in The Guardian, Howard Millar of Ryanair is quoted as saying the company will be taking legal action against more comparison sites following it’s successful injunctions against Vtours and BravoFly. The Telegraph suggests Ryanair is currently gunning for Tui UK, the parent company of Thomson and First Choice, as well as On the Beach.
Personally I’m amazed that Ryanair have taken this step. If the figures quoted in the papers are true, comparison site sales account for less than 0.5% of their daily sales so why bother going after them with potentially expensive lawsuits? Besides, aren’t Ryanair earning money from these sales anyway? Sure they’re not able to upsell other product such as car hire or hotels but they’re filling their planes which, in the current economic environment, should surely be welcome? Due to the credit crunch, people are shopping around for discount air travel so why not build a separate database for the ‘screen-scraping’ websites so that it doesn’t interfere with your main website traffic and accept the lower margin tickets?
In the last 10 years I don’t think I’ve booked flights directly with any airline. I use sites like Expedia, Travelocity and GreatLateDeals to shop around, compare prices and find cheap flights. If an airline like Ryanair aren’t listed then I generally don’t bother checking direct. I’m confident that I’ll find the best deal using these sites.
I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised at their actions. This 5 year old thread on Affiliates4U talks about Ryanair having a hang up about “middle men” but what if other airlines follow suit and blocked sites like Expedia? What if electrical companies decide that they don’t want their products featured on sites like PriceRunner?
Look through your affiliate partners inventory and I can guarantee you’ll find some high earning price comparison sites so if your business model is based on the revenue you currently receive, it might be time to look again because this could spell the end of the road for the price comparison site market.