On the Beach is calling for regulators to stop what it claims are ‘aggressive tactics’ used by some low-cost airlines to prevent online travel agents from packaging their flights.
Examples of tactics used by airlines cited in a white paper commissioned by On the Beach include: Ryanair preventing OTA’s from bookings seats for their customers by rejecting their credit cards; reducing seat availability for OTAs to push direct bookings; imposing an additional API fee for OTAs; preventing OTAs from contacting customers with vital information such as flight cancellations; reputational attacks on OTAs, such as calling them ‘internet pilots’; and delaying refunds to OTAs.
On the Beach claims it is still owed ‘millions’ by Ryanair for cancelled flights during COVID and is suing the airline for more than £2 million.
It has asked the Competition and Markets Authority to carry out a full market review and wants airlines to be forced to provide OTAs with flight information and seat-only prices ‘on a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory basis’.
On the Beach also wants a new Code of Conduct for airlines and OTAs to work together ‘for the benefit of consumers’.
It says its white paper, which includes data from 3,000 British holidaymakers, shows that 74% feel that regulators are not effectively holding airlines to account and 84% worry that lack of effective regulation will mean worse service and higher prices in the future.
The majority said the Government should be doing more to protect them.
On the Beach CEO Shaun Morton said: “Millions of people book with online travel agents every year because they can access choice, value and ATOL protected package holidays – and consumers have told us these things are really important to them.
“This is under threat because low-cost airlines are taking advantage of their market power and using anti-competitive behaviours, scaremongering tactics and smear campaigns to remove consumer choice, degrade the customer experience and purposefully make life difficult for online travel agents.
“Without urgent intervention, the UK travel sector will become dominated by a very small number of airline players which should be of huge concern for everyone. My hope is that the CMA will act quickly to safeguard consumer choice because if not, competition will reduce, adherence to regulations and customer service will deteriorate further, and holiday prices will only increase.”
On the Beach is urging UK holidaymakers to write to their local MPs to support calls for regulatory action and can do so at – https://www.onthebeach.co.uk/safeguarding-consumer-choice-in-the-travel-sector