Aviation News

October 26, 2010

Flight Search Sites Go to War Against Google-ITA Software Deal

About a one-third of travelers nowadays visit Google, type in a travel destination and/or an airline and let the search engine tell them the best site from which to buy their flight. The vast majority of those search results point to sites running flight search software created by a Massachusetts-based company called ITA Software, among them the largest online travel bookers, such as Orbitz, Expedia, Hotwire and Priceline.

Google ITA Software

In July, Google announced that it was planning to buy ITA for $700 million, immediately drawing antitrust cries from many (but not all) ITA clients. These sites fear that if Google is allowed to build its own in-house flight search engine, much of those 30% of travel consumers will instead receive results that entice them to book through Google’s own service, massively cutting into the traffic being fed to the Orbitzes and Expedias of the world.

On Tuesday, the online travel powerhouses Expedia, Kayak, Sabre and Farelogix launched an alliance to lobby the Department of Justice, and the public, against Google’s purchase of ITA, arguing that the deal would give Google an unfair influence over the air travel market. Not only could Google’s own flight search detract from how these sites attract travelers on Google, but they fear Google could limit access to ITA products and services while keeping them for their own use. The alliance’s website, FairSearch.org, details a number of their interests in the market, and their concerns based on Google’s previous brushes with anti-trust regulators. They are also pooling their resources to put lobbying boots on the ground in Washington.

Interestingly, a number of interested parties have chosen not to join the alliance. Orbitz and Priceline have publicly supported the deal. Microsoft has opposed the deal privately in its own conversations with the Department of Justice, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

For its part, Google quickly came out defending themselves on Tuesday, claiming, among other points, that a Google flight search engine would not affect air fares because they are set by the airlines, not by ITA.