Ryanair will offer passengers connecting flights and check-through baggage from this month on services via Rome Fiumicino airport, and plans to expand availability “rapidly” to other major airports.
Only Ryanair flight connections will be on offer to begin with, but the carrier plans to extend connecting services through interline agreements with at least two other airlines by September and is in advanced talks with Aer Lingus and Norwegian.
The carrier also plans to open the Ryanair.com site to other carriers to sell their flights.
Ryanair chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs said: “This is a big deal for us, but it’s something customers will love. Connecting flights will start with Ryanair through Rome Fiumicino in April.
“It will allow customers to search Dublin-Palermo, say, when we don’t fly Dublin-Palermo, and be able to book it and their bag will be handled by Fiumicino.
“This will become available across the network. We’ll do the same thing with other airlines from September this year [and] we’ll roll this out pretty quickly to other bases.
“We’re looking to do it with Aer Lingus and Norwegian, on long haul and short haul, and we’ll look to do it with other airlines.
“So you will be able to book Milan Bergamo to New York through Dublin or London Gatwick and your bag will be checked through.”
Ryanair won’t offer connections between flights with less than a three hour ‘connection window’ to begin with, but expects this time to come down.
Jacobs said: “We’re open to working with everyone, be it the whole of IAG [which] is on record saying it is working on this. We’re talking to everybody.”
Aer Lingus owner IAG owns British Airways as well as Iberia and Vueling.
He added: “It’s a fundamental change for a low-cost carrier to be working with legacy carriers.
“This will be a big advantage in getting more of the business travel market in Europe.”
Ryanair will also open its site to third-party flights. Jacobs said: “Ryanair will sell partner airlines’ flights, long and short haul. Why? Because it’s a cheaper way for them to get people on their planes.
“We’re the most-visited airline website and we plan to be the world’s most-visited travel website.
“We have close to 600 million visits a year. If you’re a smaller retailer it’s like putting your products on Amazon. We’re a European airline, but we’re a global travel brand.”
He said Ryanair is still “working through the commercials” with Aer Lingus and Norwegian, but added: “The back-end technology is often the biggest problem.”
Jacobs insisted: “Connecting flights is going to be really big. Booking New York JFK or Cancun on the Ryanair site is going to be big.
“I’ll be disappointed if you’re not able to search [and book] flights outside Europe on our site in 2017.”
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