In a turn of events that would have appeared unlikely a few years back, the no-frills carrier will champion consumers over what it believes is misleading advertising on Google.
Ryanair says screenscraper websites, in particular eDreams, are duping customers into booking flights through them by paying Google to appear at the top of its Ryanair searches, and using a URL that includes the name Ryanair. The eDreams website livery, in blue two-tone, can be said to resemble the airline’s official site.
Customers are offered lower fares than are available on Ryanair, although customer service and booking fees eventually inflate the price above that offered by Ryanair. Furthermore, as the airline does not hold the booking details, it cannot reach the passengers to inform them of disruption or prompt them to check in online.
Kenny Jacobs, Ryanair’s chief marketing officer, called on Google to change its practices. He said: “Customers end up paying more and with complications down the line, it’s overall a bad experience, and we think Google can do better than that.
“We get the booking, so it’s not materially damaging our business, but it is causing our customers problems. This will have to come to an end. Ryanair used to be the bad guys. But while Google are taking money from them for advertising, Google has a responsibility. They talk the talk on trust and transparency but now’s the time to walk the walk.”
The airline has had several legal tussles with screenscraper websites across Europe. A German court recently ruled that eDreams should desist from using a subdomain that implied it had an official partnership with Ryanair.
Jacobs said the “lookalike URL and branding” was misleading and customers would normally end up paying at least €13-€20 (£10-£15) more than the originally advertised fare once charges and fees were added.
Ryanair is not the only airline to have complained about eDreams. In 2013, easyJet reported the site to the Office of Fair Trading, the UK Civil Aviation Authority and the consumer group Which? for breaching consumer laws, claiming that up to a million people had paid over the odds for its fares.
Based in Spain, eDreams is an online travel company that bought out Opodo and Go Voyages before floating in 2013.
A spokesperson for eDreams said it was entitled to sell Ryanair tickets and to use Google’s AdWords to promote its flight booking services, adding: “Ryanair has been trying, without success, to prevent online travel agencies selling its tickets for the last ten years, and they are now invoking new, ill-founded grievances.”
Google had not responded to requests for comment at the time of publication.
This article was written by Gwyn Topham Transport correspondent, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 6th October 2015 17.52 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010