Holidays sold by budget airlines including Ryanair could be regulated in the same way as traditional packages under the new European Package Travel Directive.
That is the view of the European Technology and Travel Services Association (Ettsa), which represents leading online travel agents (OTAs).
The directive, which was finalised last month and due to come into force in late 2017, will require financial protection of click-through sales or ‘linked travel arrangements’ (LTAs), typically between an airline website and an OTA or accommodation provider.
But where a customer name, email and payment details are transferred between sites, the arrangement will constitute a package holiday with all the liabilities of a traditional operator’s package.
Carriers are furious at the LTA provision. Tony Tyler, director-general of airline association Iata, denounced it last week as “a massive backward step”, saying: “What has been legislated makes no sense.”
He said carriers would simply “not be able to do it [offer click through arrangements] anymore.”
But Ettsa secretary-general Christoph Klenner believes the directive will go further in its application to carriers such as Ryanair.
He said: “Ryanair’s booking platform has feeds from Booking.com and Hertz.
“You enter your payment details and these are transferred to Booking.com or Hertz. That is a package, though I’m not sure Ryanair and the budget airlines realise this.”
Klenner said the need to protect LTAs would also hit OTAs. He said: “Airlines will have to take out insolvency protection and they are nervous about the premium.
“The airlines have said publicly that most would stop click-throughs – it’s not worth a loose marketing agreement [with an OTA] worth 10-20 cents a click when insolvency protection could cost €5-10.
“Airlines might stop partnerships with OTAs or say, ‘Give us €5 per conversion or a revenue share’.”
A Ryanair spokesperson said: “We have not made any submissions on this draft EU directive and will await the publication of the draft document.”