Fare searching site upsets Ryanair by scraping its web site

Out-Law News | 29 Jul 2003 | 12:00 am | 1 min. read

A flight comparison web site, openjet.com, has been blocked from accessing the web site of Ryanair to check for prices and availability, a practice known as web site 'scraping,' because the budget airline says openjet is "ripping-off" consumers.

Openjet claims to let you "compare, combine and book low-cost tickets with the low-cost airlines", but as from Friday it has "been blocked" by Ryanair.

Openjet still uses its software to extract information from the web sites of rival airlines BMI Baby, MytravelLite and Easyjet – which it says is done in the knowledge of these companies.

Martin Nygard, MIS Manager at Ryanair, sent an e-mail to openjet's server providers, stating that the access had been blocked because "..openjet.com is abusing ryanair.com by scanning and presenting and selling our seats as their(openjet) own"

Openjet denies this – saying that at no point does it purport to be anything but a web site that allows customers to search and book flights from a number of low cost airlines. It points out that once a booking is made a confirmation e-mail is sent from the relevant airline with the reservation number.

Openjet charges €10 for the service once a booking is made. This charge, it says, reflects the time and effort it saves customers. But according to a statement made yesterday by Ryanair this charge amounts to ripping-off consumers.

The budget airline said: "Ryanair don't believe that the public should be ripped-off by booking with openjet which would be adding €10.00, which is 25% to the average Ryanair fare".

Web site scraping is a controversial relative of deep linking. Deep linking is simply the practice of linking to a page on another web site other than the home page. But web site scraping, common among travel sites and news aggregation sites, is where one site mines information from another, or many others, by automatically searching through those sites, pulling out relevant data and then reformatting the data for its own use.

Struan Robertson, editor of OUT-LAW.COM, commented:

"Legally, site scraping is still seen as a grey area. But the arguments that a target site can raise are stronger than those raised in cases of regular deep linking. The target site can claim copyright infringement and a breach of database rules. The up-shot is that no site should be scraping other sites without first seeking permission unless the operators are prepared to risk legal action."

A recent US case brought by American Airlines against travel software company Farechase resulted in the company being ordered to stop accessing restricted parts of the airline's web site, which were not normally available to travel agents.