Low-cost airline Ryanair has started an all-out war on third party booking websites as they reportedly hold back refunds of passengers.
Name and shame campaign
Irish low-cost airline Ryanair has started a highly unusual name-and-shame campaign against third party booking websites and so-called ‘screenscrapers’.
These websites offer Ryanair tickets as part of a holiday package, or sell flight for prices marginally lower than Ryanair’s own website.
With Ryanair reportedly having upped their refund game and paying back customers who booked directly through Ryanair.com relatively fast, there are still some passengers affected by cancelled flights who are left out.
Third party websites
A lot of these passengers who have booked their tickets through third party websites have not seen their money refunded. Needless to say, most of these passengers blame the airline for this, and in this case Ryanair’s stingy low-cost reputation does not help them here.
However, Ryanair is pretty much blameless here in most cases. If you book your flight through a third party website, this is always your intermediary in case things go wrong.
Any flight rebooking or refund would have to be processed through such third party websites as technically these customers bought their product there – and not with Ryanair directly.
Needless to say, this can often be a tedious procedure as instead of communicating directly with the airline in question, there is now an extra middleman through which all communications and transactions have to pass.
Holding back money
According to Ryanair, these third party websites are the ones who are often holding back passengers’ refunds. As the low-cost airline is so sick and tired of being blamed for this, they started to name and shame these booking websites and holiday providers.
On social media, Ryanair’s social media team is now publicly blaming these websites for not helping out their customers. There are literally hundreds of examples if you look at Ryanair’s Twitter feed.
Take for example the situation below in which Ryanair has paid back third party booking website Lastminute.com – which in turn reportedly hasn’t paid back the actual customer.
We can confirm this has been paid.
— Ryanair (@Ryanair) October 6, 2020
Other issues when booking through a third party website
These are far from the only issues passengers can have when booking through third party websites. If you buy a ticket at many of such websites, your email address and credit card details will remain with them and are not passed on or used to buy the actual ticket.
Many of these websites instead use their own account and credit cards to actually buy the tickets for you, providing their own e-mail address and telephone numbers.
Although this does not matter much when things go right, you might miss out on important information if the airline tries to send out an importance notice, such as a changed departure time or information about new entry restrictions.
As you can see from the example below, it is even possible that you might miss out altogether on vital check-in information.
Hi V, this is what can happen when you book with an unauthorised screen scraper- they overcharge you and they also change your email address so we can’t contact you directly with important travel information.
DM us and we will get you sorted. https://t.co/PHvebHcpQJ
— Ryanair (@Ryanair) October 6, 2020
How can third party websites offer tickets for a lower price?
This brings us to the point why third party websites are sometimes able to offer ticket prices for even lower prices than on the airline website itself.
These websites make money by offering you add-ons for higher prices than you would pay if you book on the Ryanair website itself. If a checked bag costs 20 EUR on Ryanair’s own website, such websites might charge 30 EUR for an added piece of luggage if you book through them.
Unfortunately, as Ryanair’s own booking reference number is not given to these customers, they cannot buy these add-ons at Ryanair’s own website after buying a ticket through a third party website. The only way to add a bag, priority boarding or select a seat is by doing this through the same third party website – which will only do this for highly inflated prices.
Because of this many third party websites will not even hand you the data needed to login into Ryanair’s own website to access your booking, as that would undercut their exact business model.
So is booking through a third party website always a bad idea?
Yes and no. I would say that in case of booking a ticket only with a low-cost airline it certainly is a bad idea. In such case I would highly recommend always to book directly with the airliner and not go through a third party booking website.
Remember that any add-ons such as priority boarding and bags will cost much more if you book your ticket through a third party website. As you can see from the example above, you might not even receive vital communications from the airline as third party websites will often not give these details to the airline when buying the ticket for you.
If you do not require any add-on such as checked baggage or priority boarding, and if things go smoothly without cancellations or flight changes, you might very well not notice the difference. In such a case, yes you could perhaps save a few euro or pound sterling by booking through a third party website.
But are these savings worth it? I would certainly never do so when booking a low-cost flight. It might be different when the savings can be 50 to 100 euro when booking an intercontinental ticket on a full-service airline, but even there the risks are the same and you should definitely be aware of them before buying something.
If such third party websites offer flights as part of a holiday package in combination with accommodation, the savings might be worth it as well. But again you should be aware of the potential risks.
Which third party booking websites are reliable?
There is also a huge difference between third party booking websites. Some are definitely less reliable than others. If you have booked tickets before through third party websites, you might have seen the difference between them that some issue your e-ticket immediately, while others don’t.
They will only issue you a ‘confirmation’ and will only issue the e-ticket the next day. This is often because an employee actually has to manually book the ticket for you, hence the delay! It can easily happen that you receive an email a day later that they were unable to book your ticket because the price has already gone up, asking you if you are fine with the price increase.
If you book your ticket through a third party website, always do check reviews of these websites. I highly advice against booking tickets through websites which do not issue tickets directly – as often those are the worst offenders when it comes to the problems described above.
There are certainly some reliable third party booking websites and we certainly should not judge them all because of the failings of a few screenscrapers, but you should definitely be vigilant. Especially so when 1 or 2 of such websites have even lower prices than the bulk of their competitors.
Why does Ryanair take action?
Although I do believe that Ryanair definitely has the interests of these affected customers at heart, it certainly isn’t the main reason why the airline has started their all-out war on third party booking websites.
After all, remember that the airline is run by Michael O’Leary, who is quite notorious for wanting to nickel and dime everything.
You have to look at Ryanair’s own business model to understand why the airline is unhappy with customers booking at third party websites. Although the airline still gets the same usual price for each seat, checked bag or service sold through a third party website, they do lose out on other revenue streams.
A huge chunk of Ryanair’s revenue comes from affiliate deals with rental car outfits, insurance providers, accommodation websites and even bus transfer companies.
If you book your ticket at the Ryanair website before, you will certainly have seen the countless of pages you need to pass through before you can actually finalise your booking. If you add such a service to your booking, Ryanair gets a hefty cut from the likes of Hertz or Booking.com.
Of course, they do not have a chance of receiving such benefits if people only book through third party websites! It massively undercuts Ryanair’s own business model. Their current campaign against screenscrapers is therefore mostly done because it affects them as much as their customers!
Help, I’m affected by all of this!
If you have booked through a third party website and still haven’t received your Ryanair refund back, please check Ryanair’s special page on this issue what you can do to speed up the process.
Although it can be beneficial at times to book your flight tickets through a third party website, it almost never is in case of low-cost flights. Unfortunately, many passengers are not aware of the potential risks, which creates huge issues in situations when things go wrong, such as a flight cancellation.
Knowing how third party booking websites and screenscrapers work is vital consumer knowledge and may help you the next time to decide better whether it is worth the risk to go through such websites, or to book with the airline directly.
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