Openjet Ltd., a Cork based online travel start-up today confirmed it had lodged complaints with both the EU and the Irish Competitions Authority, with regards unfair treatment from Irish Low Fares Airline Ryanair.
Pat O'Shea, Managing Director of Openjet Ltd., the company responsible for openjet.com, took the action of complaining to both authorities following Ryanair’s blocking access to their fares on the 25th of July of this year.
In a letter to Loyola De Palacio, Mr. Pat O'Shea of Openjet asks the EU to further probe into the anti-competitive practices of Ryanair, and accuses them [Ryanair] of flaunting both section B & C of Article 82 of the EC Treaty.
In the letter Mr. O’Shea explains why he believes Ryanair’s blocking actions are illegal:
“Openjet believe that Ryanair's action is in violation of Article 82 (b) of the Treaty. The reasons being:
The vast majority of Ryanair’s routes are monopolized by them. E.g. Stansted to Aarhus, Stansted to Valladolid. Limiting access to openjet transfer passengers to these exclusive Ryanair routes is illegal; limiting the market to the prejudice of consumers. The lack of access [to Ryanair] disallows [openjet] customers a chance to compare similar/same routes by price; limiting the market to the prejudice of consumers.
Openjet also believe that Ryanair is Article 82 (c) of the Treaty. The reasons being:
Ryanair allow every high street travel agent in Europe to access their website and search and book fares on behalf of their customers.”
Mr. O’Shea added today that he was one of a number of scanning websites that have been denied access to the openjet site, however Ryanair does allow some to access it- the criteria for access is not available from Ryanair; “Ryanair have the technical abilities to withhold access to all Irish Travel Agents, as they use a dedicated ISP (internet service provider), they are clearly prejudice against an online travel provider such as openjet.”
Mr. O’Shea added “I am sick of hearing Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary whining about how competition works, and monopolies don’t. His denial of access [to online travel companies] to his monopolized fares is clearly illegal, and for once puts the traditional travel agents at a competitive advantage over us.”
“In any case, I believe openjet’s business model is complimentary to that of Ryanair’s. Openjet’s model is based on the fact that as the low cost airline industry has developed across Europe, it has led to the establishment of hub airports in England, Northern France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and Northern Italy. These hubs provide an opportunity for people from the peripheral regions to traverse Europe using a combination of low cost flights transferring through one of these hubs. At least 50% of Ryanair’s monopolized routes are quite good and centre around larger population centres, openjet could add to the decreasing load factors Ryanair is experiencing on these routes, at zero cost to them. However I am afraid even openjet.com, the low fares experts cannot help Mr. O’Leary with some of his wilderness routes, as openjet.com already features carriers that fly to more central airports, which will always be more popular, even though they may cost €10 more to fly to.”
The complaint is very simple, denying access to the fares is clearly in violation of Article 82 (b) of the treaty, and allowing some travel providers access, and denying others is clearly a violation of 82 (c) of the treaty.
Pat O’Shea added “Ryanair will have to come up some explanations for the EU, not trying to fob people off with mistruths like they did in their last press release regarding the blocking of openjet, Mr. O’Leary has to realize that his company policy cannot supercede the law- exclusive sale [through any medium] of monopolized products is illegal in the EU”.
Ryanair state on their website that they accept bookings from travel agents/providers. It is common policy within Ryanair to use other airlines websites, for both yield management and for comparison material for their advertising. Ryanair once even approached openjet, to ask them for software to automatically scan other airlines web fares, but in this case what is good for the goose is not for gander? Openjet were barred from scanning Ryanair.com, openjet has also barred Ryanair from using their website, as Ryanair yield managers were using openjet to scan competitors fares. Openjet have a policy of allowing all airlines who allow them access to their websites free access to the openjet.com low fares search and booking engine. As this is not applying different terms & conditions to separate commercial parties, it is not deemed to be in contravention of any EU competition law.