Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ireland’s Ryanair, an airline known more for its lack of a positive passenger experience and nickel and diming its passengers than anything else, claims his airline is on the cusp of “completely transform how consumers search for, select and buy airline tickets.”
In an interview published in The Irish Independent yesterday Mr. O’Leary claims to have been working with Google to develop a new way for the airline to share its pricing through all of Google’s channels and allow direct price comparisons, funded entirely by Google’s existing advertising. The Google airfare comparison tools, expected to roll out this coming March, will allow customers to click into Ryanair or another airline’s and directly book tickets.
While Mr. O’Leary states “It’ll blow comparison sites like Skyscanner out of the water.” His statements leave some questions.
For starters, how will this differ from Google’s existing Flight booking tool? The current google.com/flights tool, powered by ITA Software, which is wholly owned by Google, lists multiple flights, multiple airlines and directs would be passengers to book directly from other websites.
SkyScanner’s flight booking search engine, like Google’s, allows travelers to quickly scan multiple flights, multiple airlines and book externally of their site.
Furthermore Mr. O’Leary’s statement that Google is providing this service at no cost to the airline, implying the savings is passed into the passenger, and it is funded by existing advertising systems in place with Google offers no innovation and nothing new. Currently Google’s Flights booking system is currently funded by advertising revenue. No airlines pay to be part of Google’s existing structure and Google garners its revenue from the existing advertising revenue.
Mr. O’Leary’s comments on the shift towards mobile booking are quite intriguing, as SkyScanner currently offers a mobile app for booking easily from a tablet or mobile phone, and Google does not. In fact SkyScanner offers two apps, a free one with advertising and a paid one with no advertising. For Ryanair’s new flight comparison and booking took to blow SkyScanner out of the water, it would require all bookings be done within a single website and all external web links related to commerce and booking be optimized for mobile.
No, of course, there is the issue of booking with Ryanair. The Google Flights portal shows airfares, with taxes, but with Ryanair passengers must pay fees for not only baggage, but a credit card payment fee, check in fee, and of course a possibly boarding pass reissue fee. Some fares include fees, others do not, and some fees vary, so how will all this be worked into the Google Flights fare display? Passengers don’t want to see €3 for a fare and walk away with a €115 total price when another carrier may have simply advertised €112 for the same flight before the nickel-and-diming.
So, having spent the better part of the day researching Ryanair’s new venture with Google, that aims to revolutionize how passenger buy their airline tickets, it seems that once again Mr. O’Leary is over-hyping what passengers should expect and hiding behind a circus rather than working to improve the airline passenger experience.