Google Wants to Be Your Go-To Travel Agent

The search giant acquires ITA, a travel data firm, for $700 million

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Shaking up the airline booking world, Google has acquired ITA Software for $700 million. The airline data company provides software to about half of the online travel industry, with clients including Orbitz, Microsoft's Bing, Kayak and American Airlines.

In a statement on its blog, Google said "we’ll work on creating new flight search tools that will make it easier for you to search for flights, compare flight options and prices and get you quickly to a site where you can buy your ticket."

The move is sure to invite scrutiny from antitrust enforcers in the US and elsewhere. So what should we expect from this acquisition and how might Google harness ITA's data?

  • What to Look For  Dan Nosowitz at Fast Company writes: "In short, it means Google Flight Planner. I don't know if that'll be the actual title, but it's safe to say Google will announce some variation on it in the coming months. Google now has the data to provide search results for all kinds of airline questions, including price comparisons, flight times, availability, and more."
  • Some Cool Opportunities for Integration, writes Charlie Anzman at SEO and Tech Daily: "As Google continues to integrate their various services, I can imagine not only shortcuts to airlines and flights in the main Google search index, but possibly recent photos of destinations from Picasa, imagery in Google Earth (and the thousands of photos and videos there from Google-owned services such as YouTube and Panoramio)."
  • The Move Seems Innocent Enough, writes Brad McCarty at The Next Web: "For those who might be wondering, Google will be honoring all previous agreements with ITA customers.  Google is simply, it seems, trying to broaden the choices for travelers.  As detailed in the press release for the acquisition, too few companies offer too few choices, and Google would like to change that.  Profitably, of course."
  • Expect Staunch Opposition, writes Greg Sterling at Search Engine Land: "I think this will be aggressively opposed by those that see themselves as competitors of a Google travel search offering and potentially some of the airlines — although Google says it wants to drive more traffic to airlines. If provided with assurances, as I’m certain is going on, Google may secure airline support or at least neutrality. It very much sounds like travel destination sites, aggregators and meta-search travel sites would be in a position to lose if Google is able to integrate ITA. However ITA only focuses on airlines and not hotels or rental cars. That could help Google argue that it won’t dominate online travel as a whole."
  • Now It's Microsoft's Move, writes Brier Dudley at The Seattle Times: "I wonder if Microsoft will respond somehow. Bing now has better travel features since it incorporated Seattle startup Farecast's tools, but ITA gives Google much more to work with and a bigger role in the market.. .Perhaps Microsoft shouldn't have spun off Expedia after all. "
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