Ryanair has been branded ‘evil’ by online travel firm Kiwi.com after the airline revealed it would stop allowing passengers who had booked tickets from the company access to its aircraft. The move comes roughly a year after the Irish low-cost carrier started advising customers that they should only book directly with the airline.
Selling flights directly to the customer has always been the ethos of Ryanair since the very early days when Michael O’Leary turned the airline into a true low-cost carrier. The idea was to avoid the commission costs related to travel agents.
Ryanair isn’t happy
Ryanair isn’t happy that Kiwi.com has been selling tickets for its flights. According to the airline, Kiwi.com is circumventing aviation regulations by providing passengers with boarding passes directly. The airline cites EU regulation 2015/1998, which states,
“The air carrier shall ensure that passengers are informed of the prohibited articles listed in Attachment 4-C before check-in is completed… Passengers shall be informed of the prohibited articles listed in Attachment 5-B before check-in is completed.”
Ryanair argues that it cannot ensure that passengers have been informed of these prohibited articles when Kiwi.com completes the check-in process. The airline said,
“Kiwi.com circumvent these essential aviation regulations by issuing their own boarding cards which are not valid on Ryanair flights.”
Kiwi.com passengers are banned from flights
As a result of the above, Ryanair has decided to ban passengers holding Kiwi.com boarding passes from boarding any of its flights. The airline told Simple Flying that, from today, such passengers would be turned away at the gate if they turn up at the airport “as they have not complied with Ryanair’s safety and security protocols during check-in.”
According to the Kiwi.com booking process, the website offers a feature to automatically check passengers in for flights once their name and passport number have been provided, to ensure that they don’t get a nasty surprise at the airport. The free service then sends the generated boarding pass to the passenger.
Kiwi.com told Simple Flying that it has been issuing its own boarding passes in such cases. The company said that these are precisely the same as the Ryanair boarding passes, but with the Kiwi.com colors and branding instead of Ryanair’s famous blue and yellow.
Ryanair further added that Kiwi.com doesn’t have the authorization to sell its flights or issue boarding passes. Commenting on the decision, the airline’s Marketing Director, Dara Brady, said,
“We became aware of these fake boarding passes when a small number of passengers who booked their flights through Kiwi.com arrived at the boarding gate without official Ryanair Boarding Passes last week… Any passenger presenting a Kiwi.com Boarding Pass will be refused boarding on Ryanair flights.”
Kiwi.com defends its actions
Kiwi.com stood by its decision telling Simple Flying that,
“There is no such ‘fake’ boarding pass – Kiwi.com complies with all the requirements to ensure safe travel for our customers and have done so for years.”
As mentioned above, Kiwi.com clarified that the boarding passes show all of the information that Ryanair would offer on a boarding pass, with a representative telling Simple Flying, “all the information is the same, just the colours are different.”
The company told Simple Flying that its passengers can access Ryanair branded boarding passes and that they should face no issues as long as they revert to this pass.
While Ryanair isn’t happy with Kiwi.com, it seems as though the feeling is mutual. When reacting to Ryanair’s decision, Kiwi.com called the airline ‘petty’ and the practice of denying boarding to its passengers as ‘evil’.
The company told Simple Flying,
“Threatening not to board customers is petty and an evil Ryanair practice to try and stifle customer choice. The real reason for this action is because Kiwi.com often sells Ryanair tickets cheaper than Ryanair and they don’t like it.
“Ryanair’s behaviour is nothing short of cruel by putting profit ahead of consumer choice. We will do everything in our power to support our customers through this despicable behaviour from Ryanair who are punishing travellers just because they don’t like competition.”
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How are Kiwi.com’s tickets cheaper?
As you can see in the comment above, Kiwi.com believes it is a Ryanair target because it sells tickets cheaper than the airline. Simple Flying walked through the booking process with both companies for the same flight to put this claim to the test.
For the example below, the flight FR1546 from Frankfurt Airport to London Stansted Airport on September 4th is used. Both websites list the flight alone as €45.00 ($52.74). So far, so good, both firms are using the same price. This may leave you wondering how Kiwi.com makes money from its bookings.
It seems as though Kiwi’s profit is made from ancillary revenue, just as it is at the low-cost airline. Ryanair offers Priority Boarding, including a 10kg overhead cabin bag and a reserved seat for €21.50 ($25.20) on top of the fare, known as the Plus fare. Passengers can purchase the priority boarding and bag on their own for €13.50 ($15.82).
Meanwhile, Kiwi.com lists priority boarding and an additional bag for €26.40 ($30.94). Seat reservations are extra and do cost more than being placed directly with the airline. The story is the same when it comes to checked baggage.
However, Kiwi.com does offer some services not provided by Ryanair. The company will allow people to pay extra for free trip changes and refund possibilities. Additionally, while Ryanair typically only offers point-to-point flight bookings, Kiwi.com will allow passengers to book self connections with the carrier, including a dedicated transfer service at some airports such as Milan Bergamo and Budapest.
In hot water with Southwest
Just under a month ago, Simple Flying reported that Southwest Airlines had sued Kiwi.com, stating that the website violated Southwest Airlines’ terms and conditions by selling tickets without permission. On this point, Kiwi.com argued,
What do you make of the Ryanair and Kiwi.com spat? Which company’s side are you on? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!