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Flying Ryanair? Book Direct But Shop Around First

Nobody has ever accused Ryanair of being a “nice” airline. On time? Yep. Cheap? Oh yeah. But if you’re looking for more than that, you’re in the wrong place. That’s why it’s no surprise that Ryanair is starting to crack down on how people buy tickets on the airline. To make sure you don’t get caught in the crossfire, if you fly these guys, you’ll want to book direct at ryanair.com.

So what exactly is going on here? I must admit, I had no idea this type of problem even existed. Companies can’t just start selling tickets on an airline unless they have access to the airline’s schedule, fares, and availability. When airlines participate in distribution systems like Sabre and Worldspan, travel agents all over gain access to that. When it comes to selling on the web, the big sellers will tend to have deals with the airlines directly that allow them to make more money from a sale as well.

Ryanair isn’t a fan of these things, so it doesn’t participate. The airline isn’t alone here. Airlines like Southwest have long shunned these distribution systems because it costs money. Southwest has recently begun playing more and more in the systems in order to get the business traveler, but you still won’t see them on any consumer-facing sites. Ryanair, as far as I can tell, doesn’t play with anyone and has really clamped down since they told everyone to stop selling their tickets back in May.

So I was surprised when I saw the news that Ryanair announced it would be canceling reservations that were booked on third party sites against their will. I couldn’t figure out how this was happening, but I think I get it now.

Some websites out there were scraping fare and availability info from the Ryanair website and then selling the tickets via their own interface. I have to assume this meant that they were just automatically making the bookings via Ryanair.com and then charging the passengers extra for it. Back in May, Ryanair told them to knock it off, and the bigger guys did. Some of them continued, and now Ryanair says it will cancel bookings made through those sites.

So, if you’re heading over to Europe and you want to fly Ryanair, you should really book direct. Or, if you just want to fly on those routes and you don’t care who it’s on, you should definitely shop around. The online travel agents are trying to fight Ryanair by giving good deals elsewhere. Check out CheapOair, for example. They’re offering 15% $15 off flights on routes that Ryanair flies as long as you fly on a DIFFERENT airline on that same route. It’s true that there aren’t many airlines that fly to Ryanair’s remote airport locations, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any overlap.

As far as I’m concerned, Ryanair has the right to do whatever they want with their own inventory. If they don’t want anyone else selling it, so be it. But as a consumer, I’d be happy to take advantage of the deals that seem to be popping up because of this spat. Do your homework, but if you choose Ryanair, make sure to book on their website so you don’t find yourself in trouble.

Edited @ 742a on 8/19 to change CheapOair discount from 15% to $15.

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