Ryanair, the budget airline serving Europe, Africa and the Middle East, is accusing Expedia of routinely and repeatedly scraping information from its website, allegedly violating the airline’s terms of service to offer Ryanair flights against its wishes, in some cases charging extra fees that inflate the cost for travelers.
The airline, based in Ireland, details the allegations in a suit filed in federal court in Seattle this week against the Bellevue, Wash.-based online travel giant. Filings in the case include a Sept. 28 letter from a Ryanair lawyer to Expedia’s legal department — which received no response, according to the complaint.
“It is inconceivable to think that Expedia believes it has authorization to access Ryanair’s website or the website’s content, but in case this is somehow unclear: Ryanair explicitly and unequivocally states that Expedia has no authorization to access Ryanair’s website or its content for any reason,” the letter reads, in part. “To the extent Expedia ever believed it had authorization to access Ryanair’s website, Ryanair explicitly revokes such authorization.”
Expedia declined to comment, saying it doesn’t discuss pending litigation. The company has been through a leadership transition this year, with longtime finance chief Mark Okerstrom taking over as CEO in September after Dara Khosrowshahi left to become CEO of ride-hailing giant Uber.
The suit reflects the tension between the online travel agency and many of the airlines, hotels and other businesses that also offer direct booking on their own websites. This dispute with Ryanair has been brewing since earlier this year, but the lawsuit in Expedia’s backyard promises to bring the disagreement to a head.
Ryanair’s suit alleges that Expedia “has used and/or procured, and continues to use and/or procure, information from an automated system or software that enables it to enter into and use the Ryanair Website, its content, and/or underlying databases for the purposes of searching and booking Ryanair flights that are ultimately sold by Expedia to customers using the Expedia website.”
In addition to sometimes charging an additional fee, Expedia “occasionally also misrepresents the price of a Ryanair flight,” the lawsuit alleges. The scraping “operates on a daily and near-continuous basis in order to procure flight information from the Ryanair Website,” the suit says. “This continues to the present day.”
The airline claims that Expedia’s automated queries “have the ability to overwhelm the systems of the Ryanair Website, which impairs the Ryanair Website’s availability and/or usability for the intended users.”
Ryanair and Expedia have a history of legal disputes, including a 2008 lawsuit over a hotel search and booking partnership that unraveled after a disagreement between the companies.
Ryanair declined to comment beyond its suit. Here is the full text of the lawsuit and the Ryanair letter.