Ryanair Takes Aim At Screen Scraping Booking Websites

European low-cost carrier Ryanair has continued its assault on so-called ‘screen scraping’ websites. The airline points out that such websites are not authorized to sell its tickets, and in doing so, are causing problems for those that use these services.

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Ryanair has continued its protests against screen scraping websites on Twitter. Photo: Getty Images

The world of ticket sales is highly competitive and a touchy subject for airlines. Take, for example, the practice of hidden city ticketing or skiplagging. This has seen both Lufthansa and American Airlines take action against consumers who have paid for two flights but only traveled on one. However, Ryanair’s issue is not with passengers, but rather companies acting as a middle man.

What is screen scraping?

In the airline world, screen scraping essentially sees one company scanning the website of an airline, and then selling its tickets with a profit. As far as the scraping company is concerned, everybody is happy, Ryanair gets the fare, the passenger receives a ticket, and they get their cut of the share.

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However, it is when things go wrong that things start to get complicated. Such screen scraping websites are giving Ryanair the correct passenger details, but false payment and contact details. This, Ryanair says, is to stop the airline alerting passengers that they have used a screen scraping service.

Ryanair explained the process in a video posted on its Twitter feed:

Why is Ryanair highlighting the issue now?

The whole issue of screen scraping has been highlighted by the current massive drop in demand experienced by airlines. Indeed, for April and May, only a handful of Ryanair services were operated each week, with over 90% of flights canceled.

As the airline was initially unable to process refunds due to public health regulations stopping staff from going to the office, the airline was sending out vouchers for canceled flights via email. Of course, due to the false email addresses given by the screen scraping websites, these vouchers never arrived for customers.

Additionally, when passengers have contacted Ryanair because the airline was provided with false payment and contact details, the passengers were unable to clear data verification processes.

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Ryanair encourages passengers always to book direct. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

Understandably, this made many passengers unhappy, although it was through no fault of Ryanair that the situation had occurred. Since summer, the airline has been offering a process for passengers that have booked flights through a screen scraping website to claim their booking back.

Of course, even once the passenger has completed this process, they likely won’t get back the surcharge levied by the screen scraping website.

When talking about the subject back in July, Ryanair’s CEO Eddie Wilson said,

“Customers should always book direct with Ryanair to ensure they receive the lowest fares as these screen scrapers mislead customers with hidden additional charges and provide fake contact/payment details which makes it impossible for customers to receive refunds or important travel information directly from Ryanair.”

Did you book a Ryanair flight through a screenscraping website? Let us know your experience in the comments.