Ryanair seeks GDS deal to woo business travellers

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Ryanair is close to agreeing a partnership with a global distribution system (GDS) provider as part of a major push to attract the corporate business traveller.

The Irish low-cost giant has confirmed it is in talks with several GDS providers including Galileo, Sabre and Amadeus, and expects to secure a partnership with “at least” one of them by May, says deputy chief executive Michael Cawley.

“We are in discussions with global distribution systems, this is primarily to service business passengers. It’s been a long time since Ryanair has partnered with the likes of Galileo, Sabre and Amadeus,” said Cawley during a Ryanair briefing in London today.

The Ryanair executive, who is to depart the airline in March, says the talks were prompted by a “gap in our distribution when it comes to business travellers”. The airline is undertaking a wider effort to attract corporate travellers and improve customer service.

“The change of mind is a reflection of a desire to make it easier for business passengers to book and for travel management companies, who in many cases act on behalf of business passengers to book their flights,” says Cawley.

“They operate a lot through GDS – but not exclusively, mind you. If you are going to have a genuine business product, as we will have, then you need have the best distribution.”

Cawley says he does not expect GDS to form a “massive part” of Ryanair’s operations and said any partnerships agreed will be on a trial basis while its benefits are investigated.

“We will monitor it and see how it goes and then make a long-term decision if it becomes part of our long-term distribution strategy or not,” he says.

Ryanair has already partnered with Google’s European flight search function, which is currently available in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK. Cawley expects it to be available across Europe shortly.

“Ryanair has begun to broaden its distribution from essentially a very narrow but most used travel website in Europe: Ryanair.com. We are now broadening access to that through Google flight search. We are very happy to partner with Google and their product is at a very embryonic stage in Europe. They are in just six or seven countries so far,” he says.

The Ryanair deputy executive says other customer service enhancements introduced by the Dublin-based carrier since last year are receiving positive feedback from customers, with assigned seating proving “extremely popular”.

Assigned seating will be rolled out across the whole Ryanair network this month. In March, mobile check-in will be available at 90% of the airports to which the low-cost carrier operates, while a new website with a fare-finder function will be available by April, says Cawley.