Ryanair ticket curb prompts panic and probe

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Travellers in Spain panic as the Irish budget airline cancel tickets acquired through third-party website.

12 August 2008

MADRID - A decision by Irish budget airline Ryanair to cancel tickets acquired through third-party websites panicked travellers in Spain on Monday as domestic and European authorities said they would look into the legality of the move.

Spanish internet travel agencies such as eDreams, Lastminute and Rumbo, reported receiving calls from thousands of passengers afraid that their summer vacation plans would be scuppered by Ryanair's apparent decision to not honour tickets that were not bought through its own website.

Though the measure was due to take effect on Monday, confusion reigned throughout the travel industry as the low-cost carrier continued to let many people with third-party tickets board its planes at Spanish airports.

Ryanair is the fourth-largest carrier in Spain, transporting millions of passengers to destinations across Europe.

However, it has come under increasing competition from other budget airlines in recent months at a time when the air travel industry as a whole is feeling the effects of the current economic downturn.

Ryanair said it would reject tickets bought through what it calls "illegal" websites that scour the internet for the lowest fares, but said it would refund the cost of the tickets.

The European Commission initially accepted its decision, saying it believed the move would not affect legitimate online travel agents, although an industry outcry prompted officials to announce an inquiry on Monday.

Spain's Civil Aviation authority followed suit, while several consumer groups prepared to take legal action. A spokesman for consumer group Facua criticised "Ryanair's disregard for the rights of its customers".

[El Pais / Lara Otero / Angeles Espinosa / Expatica]

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