Will Ryanair’s OTA price parity force Easyjet to follow?

As predicted, Ryanair has now made stage 2 of its API integrations for OTAs available. Instead of presenting a higher “Bundled” price, these integrations allow OTAs to display the lead “Basic” Ryanair price and charge upgrades for extras such as seat selection, speedy boarding, and hold luggage.

This instantly makes Ryanair prices via OTA’s appear cheaper, as they are now on a like-for-like basis with Easyjet and Jet2.com, increasing their market share with a minimal impact on revenue, as most customers will continue to choose these upgrades when offered.

Interestingly, on the Ryanair site, these options are bundled so that if you want speedy boarding, you must also select a seat; within OTAs, these are broken down as separate charges.

However, as usual, the highly commercial Ryanair has priced “hold luggage plus seat” at the same price via OTAs but offers a lower price on its site for combining the popular “Speeding Boarding” options with seat selection. This option is required if you’re on a short break and want to carry 10kg of hand luggage, which is why most Speedy boarding queues are longer than standard boarding.

I am sure that other Ryanair OTA partners, like On the Beach and Tui, will quickly follow suit in upgrading to this new API connection as soon as their technology backlog allows.

Ryanair’s offering OTAs price parity will pressure low-cost carrier competitors to follow suit. For example, Easyjet’s £6.00 per passenger per flight sector equates to £26.50 for the average 2.2-passenger booking, with Jet2.com yielding their charge based on route demand and partner volume.

However, the true cost of providing API connectivity is in pence rather than pounds. These fees were introduced to compensate for lost ancillary revenue and provide in-house tour operations a price advantage. However, they look increasingly unsustainable in a market with excess flight capacity.

Overall flight capacity from the UK is forecast to remain at 98% of 2019 levels in 2024, primarily due to weaker demand for business travel post-COVID-19’s mass adoption of video conferencing as a feasible alternative to face-to-face meetings and a reduction in demand for city breaks.

Low-cost carriers have instead shifted large amounts of capacity onto leisure routes. Exactly how much capacity has been added is hard to estimate, but with bonded ATOL carryings having increased by 5.32M or 20% since 2019 to 31.6m in 2024, the overall increase will likely be more than 10m seats.

This extra capacity is already dragging down average load factors and forcing low-cost carriers to either drop flight prices or offer substantial discounts off package holidays where they can dump excess seats opaquely.

So, it looks like a tough summer ahead for low-cost carriers but a bumper year for OTAs and in-house low-cost tour operators. I have always impolitely described OTAs as “parasites living off the misery of others” with distressed outbound seats from one airline combinable with other airlines’ seats, often providing market-leading flight prices.

The OTA’s ongoing threat, however, is that the airlines use their tour operations as the route to dispose of excess seats, giving them a significant price advantage and driving massive growth.

That is why, in my opinion, the latest market is still likely to be painted “Orange”, with Easyjet Holidays growing dramatically as it provides an alternative seat filler for its parent airline.

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