Speaking to Travolution on a visit to London, Momondo partner Martin Lumbye said far from being a threat, Google Flight Search in its current guise endorses his firm’s approach to meta-search.
The Copenhagen-based company, now part of Cheapflights Media but run as an entirely separate entity, has won many accolades for its novel approach to aggregating flight inventory.
“We like Google entering the space because travel online really needs an update, said Lumbye.
“What they have done in the US is very good, it is extremely smooth and has great speed but coverage is poor. We will see.
“It’s not winner takes all in the travel space, as long as you continue to develop and innovate. There will always be competitors and the people who do not develop will have problems.
“But that is why we love Google entering this space, doing this investment, because for the past five or six years not much has happened.”
Momondo has made its name by not taking an overtly technical approach but trying to present a more engaging, user-friendly face to what at the end of the day can be a very functional service.
The site, which was established in 2006 and is still run from its original base with a small team of just 16, is critically acclaimed for its emphasis on user experience.
“From the outset we did not want Momondo to be like other search engines going very much for this Google design – deliberately ugly, entirely commercial – and call it compare tickets or finding flights.”
An example of Momondo’s approach was its work to add all Europe high-speed rail routes, said Lumbye, a huge job and one carried out because it improved the service for users rather than on the basis of a commercial rationale.
If last year for Momondo was about entering new sectors like hotels, developing channels like mobile and services like multi-destination search and its ambience colour-coded travel guides, 2012 will see it get back to its search heartland.
Lumbye said we will see a number of developments around its core search technology to further enhance the intelligent nature of the results it produces for users.
The “colour your city” inspirational search function, which is still very much in beta, is a start down this route, with different colours denoting different types of travel and users asked to apply a colour to a certain attraction or destination to help others when searching for their perfect trip.
But new forms of search are in development to further establish this intelligent search, revealed Lumbye.
“How we want to do it is mix very good search results and very good content presentation in a very functional and emotional way,” Lumbye said.
“We believe very much in content and navigation and more intelligent searches with a mix of inspirational stuff presented in a very emotional way.
“Now what we need to do is to upgrade the site with new types of service – that’s what we’re focused on right now,” said Lumbye.
What sets Momondo’s technology apart, according to Lumbye, is its bespoke technology which, unlike others in the space, does not rely on buying in airline timetables and data.
The technology is based on scraping data and API connections and Momondo claims to have the broadest selection of product among other budget airlines.
Despite Ryanair’s latest attempts to block out third parties with its reCAPTCHA step, Momondo is one example of an intermediary that does work with Europe’s largest airline through an API feed.
Lumbye said he was happy with the growth Momondo is seeing both in the UK, one of its five fastest-growing markets, and also in many of the 200 countries and regions it now drives traffic from.
Although 30% of its traffic continues to be sourced from Scandinavia, growth has been promising in the US, the UK, Russia and southern European countries like Italy, Spain and Portugal.
“We are extremely satisfied with our growth but that’s not our number one KPI – for us that is the number of recurring visitors because that tells us something about the site.
“Growth is just a number and you can buy traffic from a number of sources. When it really comes down to it what’s most important for us is the number of recurring visitors and that’s growing.”