Posted on: March 17, 2014
History really does repeat itself. Our latest evidence comes from Ryanair, Europe's biggest low-fare carrier, which has proudly rolled out a "partnership" with Travelport.
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The move, which reunites Ryanair with traditional and online travel agents, is part of what the airline calls a plan to "target the travel industry channel" with GDS distribution, as it has recently reached out to groups and corporate travelers with new services for them.
This is a significant course change for Ryanair, which has been committed to Internet distribution through its own website for the last decade or so, even to the point of harassing "screen scrapers" that operate metasearch sites.
It's also a familiar tale of an airline getting very popular with low fares, direct sales and clever branding, until the growth line flattens out and it becomes necessary to rethink the "costly frills" it formerly eschewed -- like travel agents.
Every year or so, it seems, another new entrant or low-fare line joins the club. WestJet joined ARC in 2009, for example, followed by JetBlue in 2010, Virgin America in 2011 and Porter Airlines in 2013.
Even pre-Internet Freddie Laker, back in the 1980s, found it necessary to embellish his original no-frill Skytrain by reaching out to travel agents and adding a Regency cabin. Niches are more fun to grow into than to outgrow.
So, Ryanair, Welcome back to the travel agency channel. We've been expecting you.