Ryanair is looking to exploit the power of its brand to take back control over the way its flights are sold and extend its low-cost approach to other areas of travel.
Speaking about businesses in transition at last week’s Travolution Summit the budget airline’s chief marketing officer, Kenny Jacobs, said it wants to be the Aldi or Ikea of travel.
Asked about the airline’s move this year to embrace third party distribution again by appearing on the GDSs, he said this would extend reach to new markets, particularly corporate travel.
But he indicated that airlines like Ryanair will be increasingly prepared to distribute only through third parties that are willing and able to display their inventory the way they want them to.
Ryanair won a key court battle in its long-running dispute with screen scrapers, while BA parent IAG has recently cracked down on Spanish OTA Odigeo over how some sites presented fares.
Jacobs said: “We now have a view where we can fulfil more of your travel needs – go from being the low-cost airline to low-cost on all things travel.
“That’s a wider definition of the brand space we see ourselves occupying. Because that online journey starts with the airline and because we own so much of that experience that’s quite a disruptive thing.
“There’s a lot more we can do on the accommodation side and on the things you can do at the destination.
“Airlines are taking exception to the way their inventory is being displayed because they’re waking up and realising that actually they own that customer and should own that customer, and should own the data on them and the way their brand, their fares are represented.
“There’s a lot of examples of customers having a bad experience by not having gone direct. Airlines can take the ball back and do a bit of disruption because they own the customer’s eyeball to begin with.”
Jacobs said the two third party channels which stand out for Ryanair currently are Google Flight Search, which it joined in January, and metasearch partner Skyscanner.
“Google is doing very well for us in terms of visits that come from Flight Search and how they convert compared to other sources,” Jacobs said.
“Flight Search and Skyscanner are the two that stand out, you then get a bunch of also-rans. Some take our standard API but we make the booking, others continue to screen scrape but that is changing.
“We will continue to work with those who do it the way we want them to do it. Ultimately we want customers to come direct, we want them to have a good experience.”
Jacobs was speaking in a session sponsored by Travelport, the first GDS to welcome back the airline in March.
Travelport’s managing director – global sales, Jason Clarke, said it changed its business to stay relevant and because airlines demanded change.
He said Travelport was seeing Ryanair bookings from both the leisure and corporate sectors.
“If you can demonstrate to an airline that you can take their product and put it in front of people in a way they want it to be displayed, I don’t see why partnerships between the airlines and GDSs won’t get stronger,” he said.