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Ryanair Challenges Evidence from ex-FBI Official in Antitrust Lawsuit Against Booking.com

Ryanair Challenges Evidence from ex-FBI Official in Antitrust Lawsuit Against Booking.com

BY DANIEL REN Published on March 01, 2024 0 COMMENTS

Ryanair has become a household name for offering extremely low fares and bare-bones service. Its business and operational strategy allow it to be one of the most profitable airlines in the world. Since 2020, the ultra-low-cost airline and internet travel giant Booking.com ran into a legal quarrel.

 

Photo: Pierre G. | AeroXplorer

 

Background

 

Booking.com accused Ryanair of "stealing customers away." This accusation occurred after Booking.com received a dramatic increase in customer complaints after Ryanair allegedly told customers their seats were blocked after paying for them through Booking.com. Customers would then have to pay €55 ($60) at the airport to verify their purchase, often much higher than the seat's base fare, or be denied boarding.

 



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To rectify the situation, Booking.com responded by adding a potential "unjust enrichment" claim against Ryanair. However, Ryanair sued Booking.com and its affiliates, such as Kayak, for practicing screen-scraping, which means that Booking.com (a third party) accessed Ryanair's website and offered Ryanair's fares through its own website. This deprives Ryanair's ability to maximize revenue, as the airline earns money from customers who book from their site. 

 

Photo: Ejaaz Cadinouche | AeroXplorer

 

Results and Ongoing Challenges

 

After ongoing challenges, Booking.com removed Ryanair from its website. While Ryanair noted that the move would reduce some bookings, it would also not "materially affect" full-year numbers since passengers simply go to its website to book instead. However, Ryanair may want to rethink its optimism surrounding the matter because most people prefer to book their vacation packages through just one site at a time. Regardless, Ryanair tends to be litigious, leading to more lawyers suing Booking.com.

 



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Booking.com did not win by removing Ryanair from its website. By doing so, it hurt its own traffic. Besides that, both companies had to depose their senior managers to litigation battles. In a new twist, Booking.com introduced Jordan Rae Kelly, a former FBI official, as an expert witness. She now works as a senior managing director and head of cybersecurity for FTI Consulting. 

 

Photo: Tejas Bhatia | AeroXplorer

 

In the most recent trial, Ryanair argued that it had a security system called Shield to prevent unauthorized access to its website. "Shield was created specifically for the sole purpose of stopping [the] defendants and other OTAs from selling Ryanair's flights," according to one of Ryanair's lawyers. Additionally, "[the airline] works continuously to improve Shield and to otherwise prevent defendants and other OTAs from accessing its website."

 

Jordan Rae Kelly countered Ryanair's argument: "Ryanair operated a public website, freely open to anyone with an internet connection, and therefore presented no gates to access." Additionally, Booking.com lawyers argued that "Ryanair still cannot criminalize access to a public website based on language it has chosen to include with its website terms of use."

 

Photo: Ricardo Mungarro | AeroXplorer

 

Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary believes expert testimony from Jordan Rae Kelly should be excluded from this ongoing case. He thinks she is unqualified and claims her credentials could convince the jury to "incorrectly accept her unreliable opinions." The case is continuing, with more progress being made from both sides.  

 



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