(Refiled to correct spelling in first instance of ‘referrals’)
By Conor Humphries and Padraic Halpin
DUBLIN, Aug 11 (Reuters) - Ryanair aims to take on the online travel companies with a new website that will offer its 100 million annual passengers flight price comparisons, cheap hotel rooms and location-sensitive restaurant discounts, its chief executive said.
The overhaul of the Ryanair.com site, being developed by about 200 IT staff hired over the past 18 months, is in part a defensive strategy to avoid becoming dependent on third-party sites such as Skyscanner.com and Google Flights for ticket sales.
Ryanair’s plans contrast with that of Lufthansa, which is also seeking to direct more customers to its own website but by introducing a fee for bookings made using the global distribution systems (GDSs) such as Amadeus, Sabre and Travelport.
“We want to become the Amazon.com of travel in Europe, with a whole load of additional services: price comparison, cut-rate hotels, discounted football tickets, concert tickets,” Michael O’Leary told Reuters.
“We want to be the disruptor that goes out and disrupts the original disruptors,” he added.
The basic function of the new Ryanair.com website will be a fare comparison service that shows the cost of flights from both Ryanair and its rivals.
O’Leary last month contacted the heads of easyJet, Lufthansa, Air France-KLM and British Airways and Iberia owner IAG with an offer to share real-time fare data.
But easyJet and AirFrance have already rejected the offer and Ryanair is instead considering ‘scraping’ prices using internet tools to show them on the site without their rivals’ permission, O’Leary said.
Ryanair sees providing price comparisons as essential if it is to avoid becoming dependent on third-party websites, like Skyscanner, which O’Leary said failed in an attempt a few years ago to levy a charge on Ryanair of 3 euros per booking.
Skyscanner makes money through advertising and by charging airlines fees for booking referrals.
“We need to be careful ... we are very wary not to allow Google to become the avenue by which we sell 50, 60, 80 percent of our tickets,” he said. Ryanair sells 95 percent of its tickets through its own website, but significant volumes are referrals from price comparison sites.
Ryanair.com currently sells hotel rooms in a partnership with Priceline Group’s Booking.com, but O’Leary said that Ryanair wants to become a direct distributor of unsold hotel rooms by charging lower levys than rival sites such as Booking.com and Expedia Inc’s Hotels.com.
“We thought ... Why don’t we take away the hotel disruptors, the Booking.coms, who the hotels generally hate because they charge them 40 percent of their revenue, and sell them for 10 percent?”
It is intended that the website, which Ryanair says will be launched this autumn, will also provide user-created reviews of hotels, restaurants and cities in competition with sites like Tripadvisor, he said.
The site will also try to mimic Amazon.com by harvesting detailed customer data to push targeted offers by email and smartphone app in real time, including location-sensitive offers from shops and restaurants.
The app will also offer customers ancillary services such as fast-track boarding, allocated seating and extra bags, taking account of the customers past buying habits and any specific circumstances such as delayed flights, heavy traffic or long queues at security, he said. (Editing by Greg Mahlich)