Ryanair says it gets 99 percent of its bookings from its website in a distribution model that has some parallels to how Southwest Airlines does business. Expedia doesn't offer Southwest's flights to consumers, but apparently thinks it can get away with scraping the website of a foreign airline, Ryanair.com.
Ryanair has taken its battle against Expedia’s screen-scraping of its flights and fares to a courtroom in Washington State, where Expedia is headquartered.
The Ireland-based low-cost carrier sued Expedia over the same issue in Ireland in February 2017, but the U.S. lawsuit, which was filed in late November and disclosed by Expedia in a financial filing earlier this month, has received scant publicity.
Expedia filed a motion to dismiss Ryanair’s lawsuit February 5 in a U.S. District Court in Washington.
Ryanair alleges that Expedia scrapes Ryanair’s website without authorization and violates the U.S. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Ryanair claims Expedia harms the airline’s reputation by charging consumers booking fees without informing them, and makes the flight tickets non-refundable and non-transferable, which in some cases is contrary to Ryanair’s policies.
Ryanair further alleges that Expedia’s unauthorized activities put a strain on Ryanair’s website, which can hurt response times and lead to errors. The airline noted that Expedia tries to combat unauthorized scraping of its own websites and filed a lawsuit against such practices in September 2011. The airline has sent Expedia a cease and desist letter.
As of Sunday, Expedia was still offering Ryanair’s flights on some of its websites, such as Expedia UK, for example.
Expedia’s Motion to Dismiss
Expedia’s motion to dismiss Ryanair’s lawsuit in the U.S. argues that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act doesn’t permit redress for foreign entities such as Ireland-based Ryanair.
“Ryanair is a European airline; if it suffered any cognizable injury, it suffered it suffered it in Europe,” the Expedia dismissal motion stated.
Ryanair is seeking compensatory damages and injunctive relief.
The following Ryanair’s complaint and Expedia’s motion to dismiss.
Photo credit: Pictured is Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary on Oct. 31, 2017. The airline sued Expedia in a U.S. court alleging unauthorized access to its flight information. Bloomberg