Google lifts lid on ITA-powered Flight Search

Google has unveiled its Flights Search product, the most notable manifestation to date of the search engine’s controversial $700 million buy-out of ITA software.


The development is currently only available for a selection of round-trip US domestic flights and only economy class. International flights from US airports will be added soon.


Concerns about the pre-eminence of Google’s position following the ITA software buy-out led to ant-trust investigations in the US before the deal was given final approval in April.


Conditions of the deal sought to ensure ITA’s current customers including Kayak, Hotwire and Orbitz were not unduly disadvantaged and would retain existing ITA contracts until 2016.


However, the new Flight Search functionality currently only directs searches to airlines direct although Google has said it is working on opportunities for other players in the travel industry to participate.


Kayak, an outspoken opponent to the Google ITA deal said in a statement: “We’re confident in our ability to compete, and we believe our flight search technology is superior.


“We recognise Google is a formidable competitor but they haven’t been successful in every vertical they’ve entered. We use multiple data sources and proprietary technology, all of which helps us in our efforts to provide people with comprehensive, fast and accurate answers to their flight search needs.”


Google said the new flight search functionality will allow users to:


 • Get super-fast results
 • See a simple list of the most relevant airlines
 • Figure out when to travel
 • Consider your destination options


The search engine said the results are not influenced by “paid relationships” but are chosen based on cost and total travel time.


It said this was “just an early look” and that it was “working hard to develop this feature” and to expect further developments to be rolled out.


A Youtube video explains how Flight Search works, including map functionality that allows users to set a time and price limit to see where they can get to from a particular start point.


Flight Search is available on any relevant flights results page via a ‘flights’ link on the left hand side of the page.


Filters can be used, for instance, to include only non-stop flights and people with flexible travel requirements can see what is available from nearby airports to the ones originally chosen.


Google says it automatically sets filters to show results that are reasonable both in price and duration although the filters can always be adjusted.


A bar chart shows how the pricing changes depending on the day and time of travel to help the user find the best deal.


Influential technology blog TechCrunch said of the Flights Search launch: “The big question is how Google meaningfully entering the travel search market (armed with ITA Software) will impact its competitors like Kayak, Expedia and others.


“Kayak and Expedia currently offer more feature-rich search portals. But Google is a giant in the search space, so it’s not unreasonable to think that the company could capture serious market share in travel search.

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