by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
copyright, flights, third party sites


Ryanair Tries To Defend Canceling Tickets Bought On Third Party Sites

from the but-why?!? dept

A few weeks back, we wrote about Ryanair's decision to cancel flight tickets that had been bought by travelers via third party websites. This made no sense to us whatsoever. These third party websites were acting as resellers, and doing something that seemed perfectly legal: providing new avenues for travelers to buy Ryanair tickets. And then to have Ryanair flat-out cancel the tickets without any refund just seemed to do the opposite: to piss off travelers who had happily paid for Ryanair tickets.

The airline is now defending the decision, but is doing an awful job of it. First, it complains that these other sites were jacking up the price on Ryanair tickets. Fair enough, but if the travelers were still willing to pay those fees, where's the problem? Everyone got what they wanted in that scenario, as opposed to the current scenario where everyone is worse off: the travelers are out money without the plane tickets they thought they had bought, Ryanair has a bunch of really pissed off customers and the third party sites are none too happy as well. How is that possibly a better situation?

Then Ryanair claims that these 3rd party sites are violating its copyright in reselling its tickets, but it's difficult to see how such a claim could stick. First of all, as long as the sites are legitimately passing on the lead or buying the tickets themselves, then where's the copyright violation? It's certainly not in visiting Ryanair's website. It's not in displaying the prices (which Ryanair admits are different than its own, and prices aren't copyrightable anyway). So, again, we're left wondering how this move could possibly make sense for Ryanair?

Update: As pointed out in the comments by discojohnson, the original article at the Independent reports that refunds were given to the websites involved, but the decision to refund the customers themselves was then left to up to those particular websites. We have corrected this post to reflect that clarification.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Jesse, Aug 27th, 2008 @ 7:48am

    How can this not be illegal? Is Ryanair receiving money for these tickets? I'm guessing so. Are they delivering a service? No. I don't understand how is isn't illegal.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    jay, Aug 27th, 2008 @ 8:08am

    Greed isn't legal?

    Shame on them, then.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    discojohnson, Aug 27th, 2008 @ 8:09am


    per the original article

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

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    discojohnson, Aug 27th, 2008 @ 8:11am


    i hate double posting, but Mike check your facts from the original article about your comment regarding "And then to have Ryanair flat-out cancel the tickets without any refund"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    MarkL, Aug 27th, 2008 @ 8:27am

    Avoiding price comparisons

    I actually thought this made perfect sense, as by banning the other sites from Ryanair.com it removes the only chance customers have to automatically compare ryanair's prices to competing carriers.

    On a great many routes, especially if you book only a few days before, Ryanair is not always the cheapest carrier, especially when the additional charges are factored in. Now Ryanair don't need to worry about their customers knowing this unless they go to the hassle of checking out a few sites every time, and manually adding up all the charges.

    Clever move, but clearly very anti-consumer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Theoden, Aug 27th, 2008 @ 8:44am

    Re: sorry

    According to the story, A spokesman for the Air Transport Users Council said, “... Ryanair should have made it impossible for these internet travel agents to buy its tickets in the first place. We urge Ryanair not to cancel existing tickets with no option of a refund.”

    Sounds like Mike got the facts right!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Overcast, Aug 27th, 2008 @ 8:55am

    I suspect, soon you can add them to the list of 'unprofitable' airlines :)

    There's no way I'd buy tickets or anything from a company who would pull that. They could have easily cut the forward practice of it and allowed customers who already bought tickets to use them, that would be a smart move, if this was their intention.

    But the customer's just the guy in the middle here who gets the slap in the face.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Randy, Aug 27th, 2008 @ 8:59am

    Refunds went to the right place

    The refunds were to the 3rd party sites, not to the individual cusomters whose flights were cancelled. In this case, the refunds are going to the correct place.

    It's not desireable for RyanAir to refund the cost of the tickets back to the customer. As an example lets said I paid $600 through a 3rd party site for my round-trip flight on RA. If the 3rd party site increased the cost of the ticket by $50 over the RA cost, does that mean that RA should refund me the $600?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Dennis, Aug 27th, 2008 @ 9:00am

    Re: Re:

    Thanks for pointing that out, discojohnson.

    We have updated this post to clarify that point..

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    PaulT (profile), Aug 27th, 2008 @ 9:19am

    Re: Avoiding price comparisons

    I understand what you're saying, but this is actually a rather counter-intuitive move. Yes, Ryanair customers can't use that service to discover that they're not the cheapest on that particular route. But this is only a gain if you assume that the people using the price comparison sites will now go to Ryanair's website instead - certainly not a guaranteed outcome, especially as the flights were apparently sold largely as a part of a package deal.

    Customers just searching for the cheapest flight or holiday will not now be given Ryanair as an option, so they will lose sales in that way. they'll probably still buy holidays, just not with Ryanair flights. In addition, this move will have generated significant ill will among those customers who had their flights cancelled. These customers may choose to buy from a different airline in future, again losing sales.

    So, no, it's not a particularly clever move.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Joe, Aug 27th, 2008 @ 9:55am

    Right in line with O'Leary's style

    Ryanair's ceo - Mike O'Leary is infamous for his abrasive personality, making Donald Trump come off as delicate by comparison. Really - it's a 'I don't like it so screw you all' kind of attitude.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    LeRoy, Aug 27th, 2008 @ 10:21am

    Best reason I have heard

    This is the best reason I can think of for avoiding Ryanair in any way, shape or form!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    Steve R. (profile), Aug 27th, 2008 @ 11:00am

    More than Copyright

    The actions of Ryanair point to the continued trend of corporations to claim that they have a unilateral right to define how a product may be used post-sale. Besides imposing onerous terms of service (TOS, they also assert that they can change the TOS at any time (even retroactively). Copyright is simply being used as the legal "hook" for justifying these onerous claims.

    If this trend continues the consumer will be stripped of all rights to the use of a product. Not only will all rights be stripped, but the consumer will be stuck with a significant "liability" exposure if the product is not used in the "approved" manner.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 27th, 2008 @ 11:31am

    Are these sites actually buying the tickets first from Ryanair? I always though in the US anyways that sites like Expedia, Orbitz, etc. just basically sell through airline's ticket site and tack on $20 or so convenience charge? So like a front end only?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 27th, 2008 @ 11:44am

    It seems that copyright is becoming an all-purpose claim when it involves anything on the internet. It's getting annoying.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    MarkL, Aug 27th, 2008 @ 2:07pm

    Re: Re: Avoiding price comparisons

    For almost any airline other than Ryanair, I'd agree that it's stupid, but Ryanair by it's sheer size has incredible mindshare as the 'first destination' if you're looking to fly short haul at the right price.

    I'm always amazed at how successful this is - time after time I speak to people who paid more to fly Ryanair because they weren't even aware that other airlines served their local airport and weren't aware that there are sites that would have shown them a lower price. Remember that in Europe, the majority of traffic is on low-cost airlines that don't appear in the 'aggregator' sites, so virtually nobody uses them for shorthaul - this move is to ensure they continue to not use them!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    ray, Aug 28th, 2008 @ 3:58am

    Spokesman likens it to illegal downloading

    In one interview on an Irish radio station a Ryanair spokesman likened what the third party company was doing to file sharing, specifically illegal music downloading. I really don't know how they thought that this was in any way a fair or valid comparison.

    I think that you will find the real reason that Ryanair don't want third parties selling Ryanair flights is that Ryanair then lose out on any possibility of selling additional services, such as car hire and hotel rooms. Ryanair gets anice chunk of revenue from these avenues and if people don't visit the site then Ryanair have no oppoptunity to offer these services.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Lou Paglia, Aug 29th, 2008 @ 6:02pm

    don't agree necessarily

    but it is a pretty intuitive move if you look at this like ticket scalping. The surplus is being taken above what you are commanding in the marketplace but you don't want to raise prices for everyone.

    What I don't agree with is if RyanAir did this with no notification. They should be dealing with this in a business-to-business manner if they do not want their tickets re-sold. The consumers shouldn't be punished unless they have notified all of this in clear advance.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Colm, Sep 1st, 2008 @ 1:19am

    Another statement of the bleeding obvious..

    Ryanair? Pissing off customers?

    Perish the thought...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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