Ryanair’s decision last week to block all forms of ‘screen scraping’ by third parties is more about its desire to be a one-stop-shop than unlawful behaviour on the part of other websites, Steven Rice, marketing manager of ebookers.ie told siliconrepublic.com.
This view is shared by the Consumers’ Association of Ireland, which made a statement to that effect in light of Ryanair introducing new procedures to cancel all passenger bookings made through screen scraping websites last Monday.
Screen scraping is a process used by information aggregators, whereby the aggregator accesses the target site by logging in as a customer, electronically reads and copies selected information from the displayed webpage(s), then redisplays the information on the aggregator’s site.
“It is not untrue to say flights are usually more expensive from an online travel agent that has screen-scraped Ryanair fares, we have no issue with that. But let’s say it how it is: Ryanair is forcing consumers to go to its website because it wants to sell a whole plethora of products from there – flights are the hook,” Rice said.
“We know from our own price comparative work that Ryanair is not always the cheapest for hotels, car hire and travel insurance products, so consumers should shop around for the best deal if buying such products online.”
Rice said Ryanair wants sites such as ebookers.ie to direct their visitors to the Ryanair website. “There’s no point in doing this for third-party sites. We wouldn’t promote bringing a visitor to our site and pushing them to another one where the sale is made. We would go out of business very quickly if we did that. The whole reason for a travel agent’s existence is to resell.”
Ryanair is the only airline that won’t engage in any sort of relationship with online travel agents in terms of reselling, according to ebookers.ie.
“You have to ask yourself why no other airline has a problem with screen scraping. In fact, a lot will negotiate lower prices with online agents because they value the business they create for the airlines and they want to incentivise us to sell more,” says Rice.
“On the whole, screen scraping is a good thing. It enables online travel agents to give a full choice of products to consumers.”
By Sorcha Corcoran