Last month’s launch of Google Flight Search will force metasearch sites and intermediaries to become a lot more creative if they are to compete against the world’s biggest search engine.
Flight Search is, for some intermediaries, the much-dreaded product of Google’s $700 million purchase of software firm ITA, which was given anti-trust approval in the US in April.
Google has unveiled an early version of Flight Search, limited to round-trip US domestic economy-class flights, which gave a hint of what the search engine has planned in the travel space.
Notably, all intermediaries were excluded from the ‘early look’, with users directed exclusively to airline sites. Google said the results were not influenced by any ‘paid relationships’.
Rob Stross, managing director of UK-based Directflights.co.uk was surprised Google had showed its hand with such an under-developed product.
He expected to it be something that would ultimately be rolled out globally, and although he was fairly relaxed about its impact, he said it would prompt sites like his to raise their game.
“As we expected, Google will do this very well and it has got functionality in there that is very creative and is pushing the boundaries,” he added.
“Everyone’s got to up their game to compete. But this is a competitive marketplace anyway, and you have really got to think about the customer and make sure you have the best functionality possible.
“I still think there is room for metasearch but it’s going to force us and other companies to be more creative in terms of our unique selling points and our marketing.
“It’s another competitor to chuck into the mix – but we do not see it as having a significant impact on our business.”
Google has said it is working on opportunities for other players in the travel industry to participate in Flight Search, as well as airlines.
Data reported by Hitwise at this week’s Travolution Summit showed Flight Search had 300,000 visits in its first month making it the seventh biggest metasearch flights site in the US.