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Ryanair has said it will reduce its fares and warned of empty seats on its aircraft after several leading online ticket agents “suddenly” stopped selling the low-cost carrier’s flights.
The announcement follows years of tension between Ryanair and online agents, whom the airline has branded “pirates” and accused of overcharging customers by taking a commission on flights and additions to bookings such as luggage or seat reservations.
In the update on Wednesday, Ryanair said that in early December “most of the larger” travel agent sites, including Booking.com, Kayak and Kiwi, had suddenly removed its flights from sale. All three companies did not comment.
Ryanair said it expected the changes to lead to a small number of extra empty seats on its flights in December and January, and added that it had lowered fares to encourage more people on to its planes.
But the airline added that it did not anticipate a “material” impact on its forecast for passenger numbers or profit in its current financial year, which ends in March. Shares fell almost 4 per cent in early afternoon trading on Wednesday, slightly outstripping the losses of rival European airlines.
Analysts at broker Davy said the announcement represented “short-term turbulence” for the airline, but that it did not see a hit to profits.
Ryanair said the travel agents’ decision to stop selling flights was “welcome”, and that their sales “only account for a small fraction of Ryanair’s bookings”.
Ryanair has long tussled with online travel agents, which prevent it from dealing directly with its customers.
Chief executive Michael O’Leary has characterised these online agents as “overcharging scam artists” for adding their own fees to the airline’s prices, and Ryanair has previously complained that travel agents have provided incorrect passenger information to the airline.
The agents have in turn complained about Ryanair’s treatment of their customers, which has included forcing passengers booking through third-party websites to hand over significant personal information in a complex process, including facial verification, in order to manage their booking or check-in online.
On The Beach, which on Wednesday said it continued to sell Ryanair flights, was awarded £2mn by the High Court in London in October after suing over refunds it said the airline had not paid out during the pandemic.
Ryanair on Wednesday said it had flown 12.5mn passengers in December, up 9 per cent on the previous year. Rival low-cost airline Wizz Air carried 5mn passengers, up 19 per cent.
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