Airline Plans To Cancel All Flights Booked Through 3rd Party Websites

from the piss-off-your-customers-much? dept

And people wonder why airlines have so much trouble staying in business? We were already confused enough by American Airlines' desire not to be listed on the sites where people search for airfare, and easyJet's plan to sue the sites that send it customers, but Irish-based airline Ryanair is taking this all to a new level. Beyond just being upset about those 3rd party sites (i.e., sites that send it business!), it's planning to cancel the flights for everyone who booked through one of those services (thanks to Sean for the link).

Yes, we understand that these airlines prefer people to purchase flights from the airlines directly, but it still seems bizarre to try to cut off a great promotional channel. People already know to go look at 3rd party sites for airfare, so actively working against having your flights promoted doesn't make much sense. Then actively pissing off a bunch of your customers who booked through those sites by canceling their flights is even more braindead, as you've just formed a huge group of customers who will complain about your airline and spread the word about how you canceled their legitimately purchased flight for no reason other than spite and a confusion over business models. When Ryanair started promoting how some of its seats might come with sexual gratification, I'd bet many passengers didn't realize it would end with them getting screwed.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Hulser, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 11:37am

    A game of chicken?

    And people wonder why airlines have so much trouble staying in business?

    High fuel prices?

    it still seems bizarre to try to cut off a great promotional channel

    I'm guessing that the normal rules of business become distorted when you actually lose money on every flight, as almost all airlines (at least in the US) are.

    I heard a story on NPR this morning about how all of the new fees being charged by airlines are a way to keep the up-front costs down enough so that the company's flights can appear on the critically important first results page when people do a search. The main point of the story was that all of the US carriers know that their fares are way too low to actually make any money -- given today's fuel prices -- but that no one wants to be the first to raise prices for fear that they'll fall off that first results page and lose business.

    The story even implied that the US carriers blame their financial troubles on their customers for "unreasonable" demands for low airfares. With an attitude like this, it's no wonder that an airline would cancel flights like this.

    (So, how's that for turning your standard principles of capitolism on its head: all of the companies in a certain area know that their prices are so low that they can't stay in business for long, but no one wants to be the first to raise prices. It's like a game of chicken, but on a massive scale. Scary.)

     

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  2.  
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    Mike (profile), Aug 8th, 2008 @ 11:49am

    Re: A game of chicken?

    High fuel prices?

    To be fair, airlines had trouble staying in business long before the price of fuel shot up. It's not helping matters, but it's hardly the cause.

    I heard a story on NPR this morning about how all of the new fees being charged by airlines are a way to keep the up-front costs down enough so that the company's flights can appear on the critically important first results page when people do a search

    I'd agree... except for the actions described above are so that they no longer appear on the search at all.

    That's the part I don't understand.

    The story even implied that the US carriers blame their financial troubles on their customers for "unreasonable" demands for low airfares. With an attitude like this, it's no wonder that an airline would cancel flights like this.

    But the actual complaint was that the fees charged by those 3rd part providers was too high. So that doesn't mesh either.

    I dunno. I understand the points you're making, but they don't seem to explain this behavior.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 11:53am

    BA humbug

     

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  4.  
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    Jake, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 11:57am

    As I recall it turned out that easyJet was suing off one such reseller for adding usurious surcharges, using a crude and badly-designed system that frequently failed to transmit booking information to them correctly, and pocketing the fare and not telling the customer when it fouled up. I would respectfully submit that having your company name used to defraud your would-be customers is probably not a very good promotional channel.
    Mind you, neither is refusing to honour the bookings made in good faith by the victims of said fraud, and nor is making the fraudsters themselves responsible for refunding the money paid in the vain hope of making their lives difficult. easyJet seem to have been motivated by a genuine wish to protect their clients and the company's reputation from an outright scam; damned if I can figure out Ryanair's objective, though wangling of a cut of the surcharges is one possibility that springs to mind.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 12:29pm

    "ROAD TRIP"!

     

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  6.  
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    Flyfish, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 12:40pm

    I also demand flights that leave and arrive on time.

    Guess that's unreasonable too.

    I'm tired, my flight to Boston last night arrived 3 hours late. That's just the normal service from American Airlines.

     

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  7.  
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    Freedom, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 12:40pm

    Hmmm...

    >> Ryanair will give refunds to all of the websites involved, Mr O'Leary said, but passing on those refunds to intending passengers would be a matter for the websites.

    It actually sounds like these sites are not authorized to sell tickets for the airline and are selling direct use 'screen scraping'. It is one thing to link to the Airline's site, it is another to be an unauthorized sales agent or to not at least own the tickets for resale.

    I disagree with them going this route. It would be better to find a way to stop the initial sale and force a link instead.

    Punishing the consumer to get at the reseller is wrong.

    Freedom

     

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  8.  
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    Old Guy, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 2:08pm

    Sorry ass business models

    Here's the deal airlines have been dying a slow death for the last 30 or so years. Anyone remember Pan Am, National, Eastern, Braniff? Everyone has to deal with higher costs in virtually every business, so crying about it is simply chickensh*t. You cannot improve your chances of success by making the customer/vendor relationship less and less palatable (see movie theaters!) It is amazing what people will pay if they are treated like the valuable commodity they truly are. If you don't think that is true, consider successful restaurants who raise prices rather than cut quality or service.

     

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  9.  
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    Infrequent flyer, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 3:19pm

    If they don't make money, why are they in business?

    If the airlines aren't making money, why are they still in business? Someone at the airline is making money, Just because it's not the average investor is no reason to believe everyone is losing money.

    I could see ending their relationship with the online booking agencies, but going so far as to cancel already booked flights seems a bit silly.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 3:32pm

    Dear Author: What are you talking about, exactly? Is Expedia a "3rd party site"? Are travel agents "3rd party"? Or are you talking about something else?

     

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  11.  
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    Otbricki, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 3:36pm

    US Airlines are capital destruction systems. I cannot understand why anyone would invest money in these broken businesses.

     

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  12.  
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    redbaron, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 3:42pm

    Insight about airlines ? From Techdirt ?

    Well - for important airlines like United and American, being on orbitz is not is not a big deal. If for example you are flying from chicago - you will check them both.

    Now Ryan air's idea is equally impressive. Get out of the 3rd party websites (like southwest) and force the issue with the 3rd party firms.

     

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  13.  
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    PieterB, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 3:57pm

    Businessmodel.

    Well, it's just Ryanair protecting their business model.
    They rely on enough customers getting extra services like rental cars or insurances to make that cheap flight pay of for them. So it adds up in the end.

    If they lose those extra services to others they can't keep their planes flying.

     

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  14.  
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    Mike (profile), Aug 8th, 2008 @ 4:00pm

    Re: Insight about airlines ? From Techdirt ?

    Well - for important airlines like United and American, being on orbitz is not is not a big deal. If for example you are flying from chicago - you will check them both.

    Really? You overestimate most people. They'll check Expedia, and if United or AA doesn't show up, then they'll just assume that there's no reasonably priced flights from those airlines.

     

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  15.  
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    Karin, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 5:59pm

    Well, simply boycott any airline....

    Simply boycott any airline that behaves in this way. They will either go out business or, shape up and have better service to boot. Maybe...

     

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  16.  
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    Jarrod., Aug 8th, 2008 @ 7:14pm

    The end goal isn't that far off of SWA

    Southwest Airlines shows up in only a few online searches, and many of those merely indicate that a flight is available, but do not have any pricing information. What RyanAir is doing is to transition to that model, though they may be a little sloppy about it. This is notable because SouthWest is one of the last major US airlines that is still profitable. Even JetBlue is succumbing to charging additional fees for previously-free services.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 8:58pm

    Re:

    Yes. Expedia/Orbitz etc are 3rd party sites.

    Some use an API to pull the info, others spam their website with bots to get the info.

     

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  18.  
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    fail., Aug 8th, 2008 @ 9:05pm

    Ryanair is essentially preventing theft

    This Ryanair bit has been covered by several sites up until now for the past few months. The company is getting disgusted by these screen-scraping websites that are overcharging for the already discounted flights. Ryanair is a discount carrier and I've also seen it be mentioned that from these screen scraping sites they are not getting adequate information about the people they have boarding, (i.e. the middleman is not passing along proper names and identification information), or providing adequate service when Ryanair really has no idea what hey are talking about.

    I actually side with Ryanair on this one, and also, Ryanair is a European-only airline so comparing it to the US airline subsidies is not really a fair comparison. The main reason I side with Ryanair is in other businesses this lack of communication between middlemen and the end customer costs money, time and customer loyalty. Think of it this way: a businessman rents a car from Company A, and then in turn rents it out to another person at a higher rate. The businessman makes a wad of cash, and Company A doesn't have a clue that the information they have is invalid, nor is the person they loaned the car to driving the vehicle. This is not really a consumer vs. business situation, it's a business vs. business. They've already sued and won:

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/07/11/ryanair_screen_scraping_victory/

    So please, this is not US failing airline problems. It's illegal behavior that Ryanair is trying to stop.

     

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  19.  
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    not Irish, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 10:59pm

    Re: A game of chicken?

    Ryan reinforces the stereotype of the Irish being continuously inebriated while killing each other. Does the world really need a Ryan Air?

     

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  20.  
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    DJ, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 11:07pm

    Those 3rd party sites charge

    Those 3rd party sights take as much as 50% of the price of the flight your hotel and any thing otherwise you mite book.
    I have worked in hospitality and hotels hate them especially Expedia they are the meanest rudest people to deal with if your on the business end of things.

     

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  21.  
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    Morgan, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 11:59pm

    I'm going to have to side with lines like Ryanair and Southwest

    Ryanair and Southwest are some of the only people making money lfying right now. If they need to pass along specific information that Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity and Kayak don't, then fine. They pissed off the customers caught in the changeover, but it's a transient act, not something that will continue. And if someone's flying Ryan, they aren't going to say, "I'm so angry I'm going to go pay twice as much for that flight." They'll go to the Ryan sight like I go to the Southwest site to check.

     

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  22.  
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    Jack Handley, Aug 9th, 2008 @ 12:51am

    Ryanair

    Ryanair misses out on ancillary sales revenues (insurance, hotel and car hire), and the third parties use its bandwidth to download flight availability and make the bookings, so it costs them more money to 'feed' third party sites. Costs also can be higher at third-party sites.
    So while it's a bit cheeky, I think Ryanair has a point.

     

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  23.  
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    Lerris, Aug 9th, 2008 @ 1:05am

    Re: A game of chicken?

    Odd then that the airlines have not come upon the same solution that;

    ISP's
    Telco's
    software comapanies
    Hardware manufacturers
    OPEC
    Utilties
    Cell phone carriers
    RIAA/MPAA

    Have all managed to notice. Namely collusion and price fixing.

    Its worked for every other industry in America with a barrier to entry higher than a small business loan, its a wonder the airlines haven't clued in yet.

     

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  24.  
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    Mikkel, Aug 9th, 2008 @ 2:42am

    Re: A game of chicken?

    I don't know about you, but the prices I've been paying for air travel within the US have been rising steadily over the past few years.

     

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  25.  
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    Pepito, Aug 9th, 2008 @ 3:47am

    Re: Ryanair is essentially preventing theft

    "I actually side with Ryanair on this one, and also, Ryanair is a European-only airline so comparing it to the US airline subsidies is not really a fair comparison"

    Italy, France, Greece and other EU countries are among the top ones subsidizing airlines here in Europe. No idea of what you are talking about not fair comparison.

     

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  26.  
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    Wolke Snow, Aug 9th, 2008 @ 4:53am

    Re: On time

    At least for 2007 RyanAir was the most punctual airline in Europe.

     

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  27.  
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    Fernando, Aug 9th, 2008 @ 4:53am

    Botched headline

    You mean, if I book a seat on a Ryanair flight through Expedia, they'll cancel that entire flight? That's a whole new kind of DOS.

    TFA says they cancel the booking, not the flight.

     

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  28.  
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    Wolke Snow, Aug 9th, 2008 @ 5:04am

    Ryanair not found by regular travel site searches

    > People already know to go look at 3rd party sites for airfare, so actively working against having your flights promoted doesn't make much sense.

    RyanAir mostly does not use "regular" airports. You will not find a RyanAir flight searching for a flight from, say, Frankfurt to Gothenburg. Ryanair does fly from a place 120km from Frankfurt to the old airport of Gothenburg that nobody else uses, though. People in Europe wanting to fly really cheap know they need to check RyanAir.com, EasyJet.com etc. The 3rd party sites mentioned by RyanAir are just interesting for stuff like airport transportation, since that can be quite a challenge with the types of airports Ryanair typically uses.

     

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  29.  
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    Pamela Johnston, Aug 9th, 2008 @ 2:03pm

    watch who follows

    Hotel chains and airlines alike have fought to be "un-included" in 3rd party sites - most recently American on Kayak. Ryannair customers won't be given a choice of booking through middleman - not necessarily a bad business strategy. If they handle the issues management properly with customers, they could end up being the player with the balls to stand alone. I guess they're all about balls, I just read their "beds and blowjobs" release. Sounds like they're not at all afraid and having fun with it. Let's see who follows suit.

     

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  30.  
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    John, Aug 9th, 2008 @ 4:31pm

    Sense, it seems, is not so common!

    Priceless. This fits in well with my longstanding theory after working in industry for many years, that most managers and corporate officers are in fact amoebas who could not organise a party in a brewery.
    What interests me the most is that all they have to do is put up a mirror website for the use of the 'perpetrators' of the 'crime' (that crime being accessing the public website!), or maybe just increase their hosting space or whatever.
    But. it seems, being managers, they choose the way that lacks the most in the way of commonsense.

    I have to admit that if I was put through this by this airline, I would make sure it never happened again by the simple act of never buying a flight from them ever again, like I did with Cathay Pacific after they dumped my wife at a different destination than booked, due to 'rescheduling'. Never again!

     

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  31.  
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    Andy, Aug 11th, 2008 @ 1:48pm

    Ryanair web site

    I just bought some tickets with Ryanair the old fashioned way via a high street travel agent as i couldn't get their web site to work - seems they might be lucky to sell any tickets!

     

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  32.  
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    Matt Larson, Aug 11th, 2008 @ 2:04pm

    I think they're missing the point that many brands do - they assume people are looking for their brand. People just want a good, reliable, and affordable flight

     

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  33.  
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    Steve, Aug 17th, 2008 @ 1:02pm

    Re:

    Exactly. This is not 30 and 40 years ago when the name TWA or PAN AM actually MEANT something to passengers. People had a favorite airline and flying was a VERY different experience. Now people just want to get to where they're going as cheap, and fast as possible without the annoying side effects associated with crashing and such. Folks just don't care. I personally LOVE British Airways Business class, but I'll fly "Joe's Budget Airways" if it'll get me there cheaper. Take 2 sleeping pills as you Taxi out to the runway, and you'll never notice how shitty the service is these days. When I think back to flying in the 60's and early 70's, and seeing what we have now. I just want to cry.
    The good old days = flying 4 or 5 star hotel.
    Today = Nazi boxcars from Schindler's list without the fire hoses. THAT will cost you $5.00 extra.

     

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  34.  
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    marqthompson (profile), Dec 30th, 2009 @ 12:09am

    Re: Re: A game of chicken?

    Conceive the optimal deals on airfares to Town Country. Virgin Juicy and Jetstar off ther most competitiive rates and the can be compared at decorate edifice. If you strike the second to seek around opportune deals can be open with Soul and Rex also. Qantas is worth throwing into the mix but they don't compete all that wellspring on soprano word to coil with the budget carriers. ------------- cruz flights to Melbourne

     

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