Ryanair is in dispute with Google, accusing the search engine colossus of not doing enough to prevent online travel agents displaying websites that resemble Ryanair’s own site. The clash has the potential to spread, as the principle applies to other travel companies.
So-called “screenscraper” websites are apparently quite lucrative for Google. Some pay Google to appear at the top of its searches.
One company Ryanair has in its sights is the online travel agent eDreams.com. If you put the word Ryanair into Google, the first result that comes up in the search is an ad for eDreams.com. If you are based in Australia, the URL is ryanair.au.edreams.com
The edreams.com. site has a little yellow tag against it saying ‘Ad’.
The official Ryanair website is immediately below it.
Ryanair’s chief marketing officer, Kenny Jacobs, says the use of Ryanair’s name in the URLs of other companies amounts to misleading advertising.
Customers clicking on a “screenscraper” site are typically offered lower fares than are available on Ryanair. Customer service and booking fees eventually boost the price above that offered by Ryanair. As Ryanair does not hold the booking details, it can’t advise the customers to contact it directly.
Similar processes operate when you search for a hotel on Google. The top result may not be the hotel’s official website, but that of an online travel agent, often with the name of the hotel in the URL. The search result will bear an ‘Ad’ tag.
Jacobs has called on Google to change its practices. He told the Irish Examiner Ryanair had received numerous complaints from customers who had inadvertently purchased Ryanair flights on the eDreams website,.
He says Ryanair gets the booking so the practice is not damaging business, but it is causing problems for customers.
A spokesperson for eDreams told the Guardian the company was entitled to sell Ryanair tickets and to use Google’s AdWords to promote its flight booking services.
eDreams said Ryanair’s objections amounted to another attack on the fast-growing online travel agency sector, a campaign the airline had been pursuing for a decade.
Written by Peter Needham