Out in the open? Ryanair touts top-secret Google partnership
An interview with Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary in the Irish Independent this weekend talks about “top-secret plans” between the carrier and Google to launch a product in March this year.
O’Leary is quoted as saying:
“There are some very exciting developments with Google, where we have been working with them on sharing the pricing.
“We’ll be sharing the Ryanair pricing through all of the Google outlets, so when you go in, there’ll be route selections, cheapest prices and so on. Google are developing a price-comparison thing themselves.
“They want to launch with us and we’re working with them on that kind of product.”
Now, typically for Ryanair, it’s a great and attention-grabbing headline (“O’Leary reveals Ryanair-Google plan to ‘change how we buy tickets forever’…”) and story for the mainstream press.
“Google will say, ‘Here are the fares,’ then you click straight through to Ryanair or someone else. It blows everyone else out of the water.”
Curiously, one particular brand the famously mouthy CEO says will be elevated (not in a positive way) as a result of the partnership is Skyscanner.
This, of course, is the same Skyscanner that many years ago had an agreement with the carrier by which it could pull fares and timetables into its search engine.
Ryanair doesn’t normally like metasearch engines or agencies (it used CAPTCHAs to stop scrapers – or it just sued them), preferring to have customers do all their search and shopping direct on the site.
But clearly a deal with Google changes its mindset somewhat.
The reality of this “top-secret” partnership is perhaps far less exciting than the story and O’Leary’s soundbites (which will likely trigger all manner of follow-up stories) suggest.
For those who have been following Google’s somewhat staid approach to producing dedicated travel search since it bought ITA software in July 2010, O’Leary’s words will sound very familiar.
If GFS had somewhat lukewarm progress in the US (it had a mere fraction of Kayak’s share of traffic after two years), internationally – and in Europe in particular – some might suggest it barely registers.
What Google Flight Search – and, let’s face it, almost every other airline search brand in Europe – has lacked is the ability to include fares and availability from some of the big low cost carriers – not least, Ryanair.
The Irish carrier’s arch rival EasyJet in Europe has been involved in metasearch for a number of years (and even the GDS), so such a move to finally have an official relationship with a high profile brand (it doesn’t get bigger than Google, even if the flight product isn’t ) would make sense.
This would be even more beneficial to the carrier if it can perhaps add some bells and whistles to Google Flight Search to perhaps somehow display the dizzying array of ancillary services it offers on its own website.
The mechanics of how all this will work are unclear, and there will certainly be some questions that, inevitably, no-one will eventually answer, around the commercials Google is offering, especially if it demands some degree of exclusivity.
Some, in respects, this partnership is a win-win (at this stage) for both giants of the airline and search worlds – much-needed attention for Google’s fledgling flight search engine (perhaps even a “relaunch”) and a boost for Ryanair’s digital credentials with consumers (there is lots of talk in the article about mobile) and the beginnings of a change in strategy whereby intermediaries will no longer be the evil-doers of the industry.
If nothing else, as-per-usual for Ryanair, it’s great PR.
NB: Google has not responded to a request for comment. Ryanair, bizarrely, given that we did not speculate in our questions, says it “does not comment on speculation”.
A Skyscanner official says:
“We don’t comment on the specifics of our agreements with airlines or travel agencies but for avoidance of doubt, Skyscanner enables users to search Ryanair flights as well as direct airlines and travel agencies around the world to find the best flights.
“We have spent many years developing the proprietary technology to enable us to offer our customers a best in class flight search tool and we believe we offer the most comprehensive global flight coverage that is both free and unbiased.”
NB2: Micheal O’Leary Ryanair image via Shutterstock.
Kevin May is a senior editor and one of the co-founders 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 in journalism at the Police Gazette at New Scotland Yard in London. He has a degree in criminology, a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism and will be publishing his first book - a biography about electronic band, Depeche Mode - soon.