05 Jul, 2010

Travel Market

Search engine giant Google has entered the travel market after acquiring flight information firm ITA Software. ITA provides software that organises fares, flight and journey times that are used by airlines, travel agents and flight comparison sites such as Orbitz. Google said it may well expand the scope, enabling users to search directly for flight destinations. Google paid $700m in cash for the US-based company, founded in 1996 by a team of MIT computer scientists. “What we’re going to do is build new flight search tools that focus on end users,” said Google chief executive Eric Schmidt. However, he said that the firm would not be selling airline tickets to consumers and that it would honour “all existing agreements that ITA has with its partners”. Those partners include some of Google’s direct competitors – such as Microsoft’s own flight comparison website, Bing Travel. Other firms which had been bidding for ITA included Travelport, Expedia and Kayak, many of which are also dependent on ITA for their flight data. Google confirmed it was also working on a project that would enable users to search for hotels, with the results displayed on Google Maps. That could put put it on a collision course with firms like Expedia, Travelocity and Opodo. Mr Calder said that while he could see merit in Google running a flight information firm, he was not convinced that it should launch a travel comparison website of its own. “While there is great competition when it comes to transatlantic flights, from smaller airports, the choice for a passenger is more limited,” he said. “There are plenty of price comparison sites already and for someone booking flights, the system is almost perfect, so I don’t see how Google is going to get a slice of that.” Credit:bbc/reuters/apd

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