Flying Ryanair? Book Direct But Shop Around First

Distribution, Fares, Ryanair

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

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 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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10 comments on “Flying Ryanair? Book Direct But Shop Around First

  1. Yep, you’ve got it spot on. There are some sites in the EU that act like, say, Kayak, but just show prices and also book it all for you, (and in some cases only then tell you who you’re flying with). Seats booked like this are being ditched by ryanair. Presumably, as prices go down as well as up, some people might benefit from this!

    I haven’t tried myself, but I’ve also read (here in the UK) that if you search for a flight and try and click “next day” or “previous day” too many times it throws you out and you have to start again – almost like it doesn’t want you to search by price. I hope this is a side effect of an attempt to block the price scraperts, because if it’s a deliberate policy it’s a bit odd!

  2. One thing you can still do is use a website like Martin Lewis’s Flightchecker (he’s a bit of a consumer champion here in the UK) which is a screen scraper to find the best deals but isn’t actually a travel agent so you still end up booking ahead. You do get to find the best prices across a number of carriers in a simpler way than carriers’ own sites.

  3. Except Ryanair have told him to stop listing their flights as well – fairly astonishing as (a) his organisation is not for profit and (b) he’s become a key opinion former (something like 1.5 million people get his weekly e-mail, which is around 5% of the UK adult population). If it’s just because they can’t tell the difference between a screen scraper and a service which does all of the booking as well, then ok (for a while) – otherwise it’s a bit of a cutting your nose off to spite your face situation.

  4. There is a direct cost to Ryanair here. Every time a screenscraper runs, it requires queries of Ryanair’s system. And that has a cost associated with it, so if there is a great deal of screenscraping and no booking, then it is tough to justify.

  5. Last time I took an intra-Europe flight, I went with BA (other possibles were Easyjet and BMIbaby) — I really liked the lack of nickling-and-diming. One bag free, 23 kg (not Ryanair’s 15 kg!). Oh, and I see Ryanair has bumped up the excess charge to €15/kg.

    Here’s my counteroffer, Mike: Fold up your airline until the corners are nice and sharp, and find someplace to put it. My sanity does have a value.

  6. Flying Ryanair is slightly better than being in a Cambodian prison in the 70’s.

    It makes Southwest look like First Class on a Singapore A380.

    I guess they keep the costs down, but I can’t take them, and I’ve flown some nasty stuff.

  7. Wait a second here…how about saying flying Ryanair is only slightly better than flying on a US legacy carrier? No need to rag on Southwest! Southwest for 1 or 2 hours beats any UA or AA F class flight of the same duration.

  8. Be very careful before booking Ryanair, unless you have a European passport and are only carrying hand luggage. I decided against travelling Ryanair as it’s extra for checking in and extra for the luggage, and then only 15kg allowed (12 pounds extra per kilogram).

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