The Milan Court of Appeal has dismissed claims from online travel agents (OTAs) Lastminute and Viaggiare that the exclusive online distribution model used by Ryanair (FR, Dublin International) constitutes an abuse of a dominant position. The court handed down its decision earlier this week, saying Ryanair's ticket sales channel puts downward pressure on airfares and benefitted consumers.

"We welcome these Milan Court rulings which establish that Ryanair's exclusive online distribution model is pro-consumer," said Ryanair's Dara Brady in a February 14, 2024, statement. "OTAs have for years relied upon screenscrapers, fake customer accounts, single-use payment cards and fake customer email addresses to make bookings on Ryanair's website in breach of the terms of use."

The court found Ryanair's practice of encouraging passengers to purchase tickets directly from the airline was justified in terms of containing operating costs and eliminating the costs associated with intermediation in ticket sales. The judge said using intermediary third parties, including OTAs, puts upward pressure on airfares. The judge ruled that Ryanair's direct sales channel was likely to result in lower fares, which is in the public interest and also allows the airline to communicate with the passengers more easily. Despite the OTA's claims, the judge said Ryanair's ticket selling practices did not harm consumers.

"This historic Court ruling has reinforced Ryanair’s determination to pursue justice for our customers to ensure they get access to the lowest fares, and cannot be overcharged by OTAs," said Brady. "Ryanair strongly objects to OTAs mis-selling our flights and overcharging consumers but we are willing to deal with any OTA that undertakes not to overcharge and dupe our passengers, as shown by our recent pro-consumer deals with Love Holidays and Kiwi."