Ryanair fails to win injunction against Skyscanner

Airline wanted online comparison service to provide it with customer email addresses

Mr Justice Michael Twomey refused the injunction application. Photograph: AFP via Getty

Mr Justice Michael Twomey refused the injunction application. Photograph: AFP via Getty

 

Ryanair has failed to get a High Court injunction requiring Skyscanner to provide it with email addresses of customers who use the price comparison website to book through online agencies.

Ryanair is seeking to restrain Skyscanner and two associated companies from allegedly facilitating the sale of the airline’s flights through other online agents such as lastminute.com and kiwi.com in an action yet to be heard.

In that action Ryanair claims unlawful “screen scraping” by Skyscanner involving the use of software to interact with its website to extract and use for commercial gain information such as prices and timetables. It says this is in breach of the use of the terms of its website and its intellectual property rights.

Pending the outcome of the full hearing, the airline wanted an injunction to stop this activity, whether done through Skyscanner itself or the linked agents, unless Ryanair were to be provided with personal email addresses and/or phone numbers of the customers.

Skyscanner opposed the injunction application.

It rejects the claims of “screen scraping” and says the term is meant to demonise something lawful: the compilation and use of data in the public domain.

On Thursday, Mr Justice Michael Twomey refused the injunction application.

He said Ryanair wanted the injunction to deal with situations where its flights were booked by one of the online agents for a passenger via Skycanner.

He noted just four of the 300 online agencies using Skyscanner put an agent-created email address into the Ryanair website rather than the personal email of the passenger.

He said Ryanair claimed it wanted to ensure online agents did not provide what it called “fake” email addresses for passengers.

The airline said it wanted to be able to directly contact people using its flights rather than having the passengers contact an email address of the online agent.

Inconvenience argument

The judge said Ryanair’s argument relied primarily on inconvenience to passengers who could not pass through the airline’s security identification procedure or call centre using the booking reference and their own personal email addresses.

This was because a passenger may not appreciate that his or her personal address was not used by the online agent but an agent-created email was used instead when the flight was being booked, it said.

A stated example of potential inconvenience was one passenger with mobility issues who encountered a delay in receiving confirmation she would receive assistance boarding/disembarking because she was unable to confirm her identity initially due to Ryanair not having the online agent address for her, it said.

Ryanair also argued personal emails were important for it to market services such as car hire and hotels to passengers.

Skyscanner claimed Ryanair did not wish to lose significant revenue from those services to the online agents.

Mr Justice Twomey rejected Ryanair’s contention for a number of reasons.

These included that the claimed inconvenience to passengers could be alleviated by the airline itself by, for instance, confirming passenger identity by using date of birth or other personal ID information.

It could also lessen inconvenience by not using chatbot software that simulates human responses to communicate with passengers.

The inconvenience and other prejudice claimed by Ryanair was not sufficient for the court to conclude the balance of justice lay in favour of granting the injunction, the judge held.