The Consumers' Association of Ireland has condemned Ryanair after the low-cost airline today announced that they would not recognise bookings made through intermediary websites.

Up to 1,000 Ryanair passengers a day could find themselves stranded without flights as a result of an aggressive new policy at the airline to combat so-called 'screen scrapers'.

The low-cost airline is to start cancelling bookings which have been made using this method from Monday.

'We are free to cancel a booking,' Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary said a press conference in London at which he announced a massive seat sale.

'We want to cause as much chaos for the screen scrapers as possible.'

Screen scrapers are websites which compare costs from different airlines, and can also be used to book flights.

Asked what will happen to people who have booked on these sites, Mr O'Leary said: 'They won't be flying.'

He said that passengers are 'getting stiffed' on these sites, which usually charge more than fares quoted on Ryanair.com.

Ryanair will refund the cost of the flight to the intermediary website. In such bookings, Mr O'Leary said, Ryanair does not deal directly with passengers, nor does it have e-mail addresses for them.

Passing the refund on - and refunding the cost which the intermediary site charged - will be left up to that site.

The CAI, however, has blasted the tactic, and has accused Ryanair of victimising passengers.

In its statement, the CAI said: 'It is entirely unacceptable that Ryanair would propose to disrupt the travel and holiday plans of passengers at such short notice.

'It is also unfair that Ryanair are planning to make travellers and consumers the victims in their struggle with these websites.

'We believe it should be a matter for consumers themselves to decide how to book their flights. In many cases consumers will do better by using comparison websites, in other cases they may get a better deal by going direct to the airline website.

'Ryanair should have nothing to fear from these websites, if they are really the cheapest option, Ryanair will sell more seats.'

The CAI claimed that the airline is only worried that a drop in bookings on its own website will see it lose out on its sales of other services such as travel insurance, hotels and car hire.