By Martin Kelly, Editor, Travel Trends

SENSATIONAL goings on in Europe, where pioneer low cost carrier Ryanair is fighting an all-out war of words with the European Commission. The EC has objected to Ryanair’s new policy of cancelling all tickets booked through “unauthorised ticket-tout websites” – 300 so far, Australia’s among them.

Ryanair took this action on August 11 because it simply doesn’t want any third party selling its tickets – never has. This led to a EC “investigation” which spawned an all-time sledge from airline CEO Michael O’Leary that also provides a great insight into online distribution.

“Sadly it appears that the EC’s desire to make inaccurate and false claims about Ryanair has yet again taken priority over the scandalous mis-selling to, and over-charging of, consumers which is being perpetrated by these ticket-tout websites,” O’Leary said.

“Ryanair is not prepared to accept the situation that has developed in recent months whereby bona fide passengers are being denied access (or suffering very low response times) to the website due to the unlawful activities of these illegal screenscraper websites.

“These unauthorised, illegal ticket-tout websites are charging passengers two or three times the actual price of a Ryanair ticket in what is a case of blatant, dishonest and anti-consumer mis-selling.

“It has been Ryanair’s policy for the last 10 years to exclusively sell our fares directly to consumers via our internet and call centres.

“This policy of eliminating the rapacious fees of middlemen such as travel agents, GDS’s and now screenscraper/ticket-tout websites underpins our lowest fare guarantee to consumers.

“In circumstances where these illegal ticket-tout websites are adding over 200% and 300% mark-ups on Ryanair tickets, Ryanair’s lowest fare guarantee is rendered useless.

“The terms and conditions for using our website, as well as our terms of conditions of travel, clearly prohibit commercial reselling.

“We have notified over 300 screenscrapers in writing and issued them with a legally binding cease and desist notice.

“(This) has resulted in a dramatic reduction in the amount of unlawful screenscraper bookings made on (and) a significant improvement in the access (and speed of response) for consumers making bookings directly on the website.

O’Leary then turned the argument back on the EC, calling on it to put an end “to the illegal practices of these unauthorised screenscraper/ticket-tout websites who are inserting themselves into the transaction between the consumer and the airline, without the permission of the airline and who are routinely overcharging these consumers”.

Tell us what you really think, Mick.

Travel Trends: September 3, 2008

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