Ryanair has welcomed changes to travel agency eDreams' adverts, returned by Google searches, two days after the Irish budget carrier launched legal action against both organisations.

The eDreams ads, notes the airline, have been amended to read "Ryanair Flight on eDreams" instead of "Ryanair: Cheap Flights".

On 30 November, Ryanair initiated proceedings against both Google and eDreams in the Irish high court, accusing them of "misleading consumers".

The carrier's marketing chief Kenny Jacobs now welcomes the "small but immediate impact our legal action has had", but he adds: "While this is a step in the right direction, our campaign will continue."

Ryanair sees eDreams as a screenscraper website that "has been allowed by Google" to use "misleading subdomains" and promote a "copycat website with identical Ryanair branding".

This website shows "non-existent Ryanair fares", the carrier alleges.

"These practices are prohibited by consumer legislation," it argues. "As a result, Ryanair has also put the [Irish] Competition and Consumer Protection Commission on notice of the [legal] proceedings."

Ryanair says it has engaged in several legal cases across Europe against screenscraper websites to "prevent consumers from being deceived" and subjected to "false prices and hidden charges".

It identifie s further dangers to consumers, such as their check-in bags not being recorded, contact details being omitted, or additional passengers not being recognised or added to the booking.

"We have no problem with Google charging advertisers on its paid search function," says Jacobs, "but we expect Google to ensure that this advertising is honest and transparent…which is what Google's own code of conduct requires."

At a press briefing in London yesterday, Jacobs cited a Millward Brown online survey conducted in October. This, he says, found that 82% of 2,000 participants shown the eDreams website mistook it for Ryanair's.

Jacobs says the airline fields 1,000 complaints per month from eDreams customers, who can pay fares 30-100% higher than the "real" Ryanair fare.

"Three years ago, you probably wouldn't have had us sitting in this room and taking on someone like Google, saying: 'Google, we want you to do the right thing by consumers'," Jacobs acknowledges.

"I think we've learned a lot of lessons and are a bit of a poacher-turned-'Always Getting Better' gamekeeper," he adds, referencing Ryanair's ongoing programme of customer service improvements.

The carrier has been in "fairly constant contact" with Google but letters have been ignored, complains Jacobs, who also sounds a warning: "Google has big plans in the travel industry. We're saying to Google: 'You're not going to succeed with those big plans in the travel industry if you continue to mislead consumer in this way'."

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary claims that "many airlines are very worried" about Google's Flight Search feature but adds: "We don't have an issue with that. It suits us, because we have the lowest fares." He does not envision Ryanair's paying for prominence in Google Flight Search. "We're not getting back into a GDS situation here."

Of the legal action over the eDreams adverts, O'Leary insists that the motivation lies in a wish to defend consumers rather than concern about reputational damage.

"My reputation would be difficult to damage," says O'Leary, while Jacobs contends that, where Google searches are concerned, "being at the top of the page doesn't matter to us" because 95% of Ryanair's website traffic comes directly.

O’Leary reveals that he has written personally to Eric Schmidt – executive chairman of Google parent Alphabet – who has also been forwarded hundreds of complaints.

Google has an 8 December deadline to respond to Ryanair's high-court motion, adds the airline chief.

For its part, eDreams says that because the case has "only just been filed...there is little we can say beyond the fact that we disagree strongly with Ryanair's position". But it adds: "This action is clearly just another attempt from Ryanair to stop online travel agencies from offering consumers the best price and choice when it comes to booking flights."

Google has yet to answer Flightglobal's request for comment.

Source: Cirium Dashboard