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The Airlines Are Trying to Shut OTAs Down

Ryanair, the infamous cheapie European carrier, is always making headlines for doing something outrageous, and this week, it's because its upcoming website redesign will do something no other airline does: It will also display rates from its competition.

Ryanair's head, who previously tried to get a rise out of passengers by pretending he would start charging to use the lavatory, is trying to get a rise out of other CEOs by saying the world has no need for third-party airfare sellers such as Expedia or Orbitz. He says the airlines should display all fares themselves, cutting everyone else out of the sales process—and hogging the multibillion-dollar booking industry for themselves.

He also claims to have written a letter to the bosses of other European airlines to suggest they display each others' fares, saying that third-party selelrs "shouldn't exist."

Of course, his airline has incredible low lead-in pricing—£9 is a typical price tag—and all his profits come in the many, many extra fees that are piled on top of that when customers are dinged for everyting from baggage to printing boarding passes. So of course Ryanair feels it can confidently display its fares alongside competitors that include much more in their higher prices.

But his idea already has traction in the U.S.  Delta Air Lines has already removed its fare information from more than a dozen sites including Hipmunk and CheapOAir, and Lufthansa is now charging an extra $18 to make a booking outside of its own site.

New York's Senator, Chuck Schumer, has asked the Department of Transportation to investigate Delta and several U.S. airlines for yanking their information from third-party sites. 

If this trend keeps pace, the airlines will consolidate control over distribution of airfares and it will become much harder for customers to get an easy price comparison they can trust.