As In All Things Ryanair, 'Low Cost' Paramount For GDS Participation

Ryanair's pivot to attract more business travelers could return the carrier's fares and inventory to one or more of the primary global distribution systems, but befitting the no-frills airline, achieving a "low cost" is paramount to the decision, said head of groups and corporate travel Lesley Kane.

Heading into the newly created position, the carrier's former European head of sales and marketing said Ryanair is in discussions with Amadeus, Sabre and Travelport, but that "it could go either way. We're neither in nor out with the GDSs, but it is something we're looking at." Kane indicated that a decision on GDS participation should come before spring.

So, what does Ryanair want from a potential GDS partner? Keep it cheap and withhold the bells and whistles, according to Kane. "If you look at the GDSs, they all have different levels of participation," she said. "You can get the all-singing, all-dancing level, which is obviously the most expensive. That's not necessarily what we're after."

GDS costs were a turn-off when Ryanair exited those channels "in excess of 10 years ago," said Kane. "For us to move forward and do a deal with any of the parties, there needs to be significantly lower distribution charges than there were many years ago."

Meanwhile, for an airline that once floated a charge to use toilets onboard, it should come as little surprise that Ryanair's GDS participation may come with a user fee. That is how the carrier has offset the merchant expense of credit cards, and how rival easyJet has approached the GDS channel.

"There's a couple of options we're looking at," said Kane. "It might be a case that we pass along the cost to the corporate agency, which in turn passes that on to the corporates. That might be one option, but that's not finalized yet."

Ryanair appears to be charting a course somewhat similar to easyJet's, which in recent years expanded GDS participation, introduced new business-oriented fares and worked directly on negotiated agreements with corporate clients.

Kane said that corporate discount agreements are "not in our current plans," though the airline this week indicated that it is prepping a new bundled fare option for business travelers that would include "flexible tickets, reserved seating and fast-track through selected airports." Kane said the airport benefit likely would apply to passengers traveling at Dublin and London Stansted airports. She added that the bundle also would include priority boarding.

Kane said Ryanair has no plans to change to the onboard product.