The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) has responded to Michael O’Leary, saying it was ‘taken aback’ by comments he made on Good Morning Britain last week. Mr O’Leary stated that Ryanair does not allow third parties to make bookings on behalf of customers, and that the airline only accepts bookings directly from customers.
The ITAA noted the ongoing communications and relationship between travel agents and Ryanair prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, stating that Ryanair have been dealing with travel agents for the past 20 years, taking bookings from travel agents on behalf of their customers and handling refunds where necessary. In addition to this, Ryanair have made their flights available for sale on internal travel trade industry booking platforms, used exclusively by travel agents on behalf of their customers, such as Travelport and Amadeus. The ITAA estimate that Irish Travel Agents make flight bookings with Ryanair to the value of approximately €100m per year.
The Association has pointed out that there are still many people in Ireland who booked with Ryanair both directly and indirectly who are still owed refunds on flights from Ryanair.
Travel agents use either their company email address or the clients email address ensuring that clients are always updated regarding time changes and or safety messages regarding COVID.
Far from being “duped” Irish customers choose to make travel arrangements with travel agents. In 2019 the Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR) licensed €1.4 billion worth of travel with Irish travel agents. Clearly a massive amount of travel spend is conducted by Irish consumers with Irish Travel Agents.
Pat Dawson, Chief Executive of the ITAA stated, “Currently there are several court cases pending on Ryanair’s assumption that they can ban travel agents from booking Ryanair flights. Our member travel agents are not ‘screen scrapers’ looking to overcharge or withhold refunds from customers; the Ryanair website is a public domain where anyone can make a direct booking and look up the price of the flight; travel agents do not conceal flight costs from customers. Nor do they overcharge customers with hidden fees or add-ons. Any service fees or handling charges are clearly communicated with the customer, and we are disappointed by the insinuations made today, as we have the highest respect for our customers.”
He continued, “The safety and satisfaction of our customers continues to be the number one priority for ITAA member travel agents. Travel agents do not under any circumstances use fake customer details when making bookings as alleged by Mr. O’Leary. Due to the pandemic travel agents used the agency contact details to facilitate ease of communication on their customers holiday booking and to convey any messages necessary with regard to their flight and accommodation booking. Ryanair are now attempting to exploit this in terms of their communications.”
Mr Dawson also outlined the numerous reasons that consumers continue to choose to book holidays through a travel agent rather than booking directly, such as choice, expertise and security.
He continued, “Consumers book with travel agents for a number of reasons; choice of airline, a variety of holiday products and accommodation, expert impartial advice, the choice of airlines and most importantly, consumer protection which is not available to customers who book flights directly with an airline. There is is value given for service, and in the long run those who book with travel agents will save time and money when it comes to booking a holiday.”
Ryanair are currently not charging ‘change fees’ where passengers need to change flights due to COVID-19 restrictions, however, customers will be charged the fare difference on the new fare compared to the original booking. Many families were charged upwards of €1,000 last year to change flights to this year, and will likely face the same experience this year if they are unable to travel.
I retired in 2019 and as long as I can remember, Ryanair have had this stance. When asked what the issue was with agents booking on behalf of their clients they could not give an answer. As corporate agents all my commercial clients were aware that we charged a service fee for bookings and Ryanair collected the same amount but couldn’t give those clients analysis of their travel spend which business travel agents can provide. It makes no sense whatsoever.