Ryanair will make online sign-in compulsory for all bookings next year, posing a technical problem for online travel agents (OTAs) lacking agreements with the carrier and adding complexity for high street agents who book flights.
The carrier announced the move to “mandatory sign-up” with myRyanair last week, claiming it would benefit passengers. But chief executive Michael O’Leary also insisted: “It’s a way to get rid of these screen-scrapers.”
O’Leary has waged a legal battle against OTAs such as eDreams and sister company Opodo, which ‘scrape’ Ryanair’s site, and in eDreams’ case pay to appear above it as Ryanair.eDreams in Google search results. The airline has an action against eDreams and Google pending in the Irish High Court.
Ryanair chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs said: “We want to grow myRyanair to 15 million customers by the end of March 2017 – it’s about 11 million now – and when we get to 20 million we’ll make [sign-up] mandatory.”
Ryanair expects to carry 117 million passengers in the 12 months to March, meaning sign-in will be compulsory before most customers are registered.
However, Jacobs said: “Customers like it. The prime reason is to make it easier for customers.”
O’Leary added: “If you want to make a booking, you will have to sign in. Screen-scrapers will not be able to scrape when we have mandatory sign-up.”
Ryanair licenses many OTAs and metasearch sites to extract content through APIs (application programme interfaces) with its site. O’Leary said: “We’ve licensed 50.”
Other agents sell Ryanair as ‘agent for the consumer’, using customers’ payment cards. The change will require they also sign in on behalf of clients.
However, the requirement may have limited impact on screen-scrapers, which simulate users’ behaviour and have adapted to previous attempts to shut them out.
Ryanair fares are available on the main GDSs, but O’Leary described its GDS bookings as “minuscule”.