Ryanair back on the GDS after ten years via Travelport agreement
In a multi-year agreement announced by the pair this week, Ryanair flights will now be available for booking via third party agents (both online and offline) after the airline signed with Travelport.
Central to the deal will be the airline’s inclusion on Travelport’s one-year-old merchandising platform, joining the likes of arch rival EasyJet and fellow European carrier Transavia to allow agents to find and secure ancillary services as part of a passenger booking.
In particular, Ryanair will use the aggregated shopping element of the merchandising platform (a piece of technology to allow carriers to distribute content via an API).
The pair will also eventually deploy the Rich Content and Branding part of the system, a process that gives carriers control over how their flights and ancillaries are presented on travel agency screens.
The move comes just two months after Tnooz revealed the airline was talking with all three GDS providers to finally end its ten-year hiatus from third party distribution for fares, a strategy which at times became a very publicly stated dislike of agents as a way of selling its tickets.
Until now, Ryanair had steadfastly refused to allow agents to sell flights on its behalf (even taking some OTAs to court), preferring all tickets be sold via its website.
The carrier is known to have offered its olive branch to the GDS community and started negotiations some months before such a sizeable shift in strategy was out in the open, when it shifted sales and marketing director Lesley Kane to a new role of head of groups and corporate travel.
One the key reasons behind Ryanair’s change in policy is that it has a target of carrying some 110 million passengers by 2019, up from 81 million in 2014, on 420 aircraft (175 of them new, arriving from September this year), so it needs new customers via new channels to fill the planes.
Targeting business travellers will help with this (and as such getting in front of travel management companies), not least because some two-thirds of travellers on some of the carrier’s peak routes during busy commuter times are business travellers.
In January, Kane admitted the carrier had gone through a “period of reflection” as it looked to widen its previously rather narrow distribution strategy (albeit one which had performed extremely well, with solid growth for years and 99% of sales via its website) and a rather more widely publicised (and mocked by mainstream media) makeover on the customer service side.
Ryanair was on Galileo, Worldspan, Sabre and Amadeus until around ten years ago, but the carrier deliberately adopted the direct-only model to take advantage of the massive jump in users searching and booking via the web.
The carrier’s chief marketing officer, Kenny Jacobs, says:
“More than 22% of customers already choose Ryanair for business travel and we expect that percentage to grow as this partnership allows corporate travel departments, travel management companies and businesses even greater access to Ryanair’s low fares and routes, ensuring they save millions of euro in travel expenses every year.”
Jacobs says the airline will be relaunching its website in April and will unveil a new mobile application in June.
Kurt Ekert, executive vice president and chief commercial officer for Travelport, says there will be no surcharge for travellers booking through Ryanair via agents using the GDS.
“We’re excited to work exclusively together over the coming months to seek out new opportunities and introduce their extensive choice of flights and ancillaries to our travel agency customers worldwide.”
However, such exclusivity may not last too long – Jacobs says the carrier is continuing to talk to other GDSs about extending its distribution renaissance onto other platforms and will be able to secure additional deals after six months.
Kevin is senior editor and a co-founder at Tnooz. He was previously editor of UK-based magazine Travolution and web editor of Media Week UK from 2003 to 2005.
He has worked in regional newspapers (Essex Enquirer) and started his career at the Police Gazette at New Scotland Yard in London. He has a degree in criminology, a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism and publishes his first book - a biography about Depeche Mode - in early-2017.