After a 15-year legal battle, Lastminute.com is moving forward with a court win, a new CEO and board. Lastminute.com characterized the legal victory against Ryanair as "a major milestone" for consumer rights.
Ryanair has aggressively battled online travel agencies over the years, seeking to bar them from selling its flights, and recently was dealt setbacks in separate litigation against Lastminute.com in Switzerland and Booking.com in the U.S.
Ryanair has fought aggressively to get passengers to go directly to its own website to book their flights.
In Switzerland, Lastminute.com announced last week that it had won a court case several weeks ago related to the selling of Ryanair flights.
Following a 15-year legal battle with the the airline, the Supreme court in Switzerland granted Lastminute.com the right to sell Ryanair flights.
Lastminute.com is selling Ryanair’s flights in Switzerland. Source: Lastminute.com/Skift
The Supreme Court decision was called “a major milestone” by the online travel and leisure retailer as well as “a win for consumers,” Lastminute.com stated.
The court cited Ryanair’s propensity to launch aggressive campaigns about sales of its flights on third-party websites, ruling that this was “contrary to the Federal Law Against Unfair Competition.”
The court ordered Ryanair to pay Lastminute.com 49,000 Swiss Francs ($54,522) in compensation.
Two parallel appeal decisions confirmed that Lastminute.com and its subsidiary BravoNext acted lawfully and will be allowed to continue offering customers the option to compare alternative prices for Ryanair flights through websites such as Lastminute.com, Volagratis.com and Bravofly.com.
A lower court found that Lastminute.com did not violate any intellectual property rights laws or any breaches in contractual obligations with Ryanair.
“The court case wins in Switzerland took 15 years, but eventually, the selling of Ryanair flights was vindicated and confirmed as lawful,” Lastminute.com spokesperson Kirsten Beacock said in an email. “The judgment called out the aggressive media campaign by Ryanair as unfounded — but we would like to draw a line under this and we will be reaching out to Ryanair to try and move forward from this.”
Lastminute.com CEO Luca Concone, who took office in December after the former CEO and chief operating officer were ousted in a Covid-19 relief financial scandal, also saw positives in the court decision.
“We’ve always believed that empowering consumers in booking any flight ticket available in the market doesn’t damage any airline’s business,” Concone said in a prepared statement. “On the contrary, it fosters transparency and drives growth and competition in the market.”
Ryanair didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., a Delaware judge on April 7 declined to dismiss a counterclaim Booking.com leveled against Ryanair in a dispute over the online travel agency scraping Ryanair’s fare information and selling its flights, according to a report. Booking.com alleged unfair competition and deceptive trade practices by the airline.
The judge did dismiss one of Booking.com’s claims alleging that the airline defamed Ryanair in public statements.
However, Ryanair has also had its share of wins against online travel agencies. In 2019, Ryanair and Expedia confidentially settled a pair of lawsuits — one in Ireland and one in the U.S. — and it appeared that the airline walked away with the win.
In other news, Lastminute.com reported its fiscal 2022 results last week. Lastminute.com losses widened by 14 percent Euro 15.1 million ($16.6 million) on revenue of euro 304.9 ($334 million), a 103 percent jump compared with the previous year.
The company has enjoyed a solid start to 2023, with an 84 percent increase in bookings from the previous year, in line with the European travel market recovery.
The first quarter of this year saw a 38 percent increase in revenues as well, in comparison to the same period in 2022.
“We now have much better accountability for our managers,” Concone said, referring to the financial scandal. “And we launched three key projects, one about enterprise risk management in order to identify when risks are and then starting having measures of risk-adjusted returns. Another project is to rethink our HR (Human Resources) in order to be more flexible … and the third is because it’s something always needed, cost control.”
Skift’s Dennis Schaal contributed to this report.
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Photo credit: A Ryanair flight. Lastminute.com is now allowed to sell Ryanair flights in Switzerland. Source: Unsplash Nastya Dulhiier