Google is now a force in global travel industry

2 Jul 2010

Very soon you’ll be Googling up your boarding pass and automatically switching flights via your smartphone. Perhaps that’s the vision driving Google’s US$700m acquisition of ITA Software which was confirmed yesterday.

The ITA acquisition by Google has been the subject of intense competition from other internet players, like Expedia and Kayak, who fear the effect the world’s biggest search engine could have on the world of travel.

In reality, that is businesses doing what they all do, strive to protect market share.

What the acquisition will enable Google to do for the man on the street is put all travel knowledge, documentation and capability into their hands.

In the same way that Ryanair took the buying power away from the travel agents and put it straight into the hands of the consumer, Google could make the travel business more transparent and functional.

Commenting following the acquisition, Marissa Mayer, vice-president of Google’s Search Products and User Experience, said Google wants to do pretty much that.

“Today, almost half of all airline tickets are sold online. But for many people, finding the right flight at the best price is a frustrating experience; pricing and availability change constantly, and even a simple two-city itinerary involves literally thousands of different options.

“We’d like to make that search much easier, which is why I’m pleased to announce that today we have signed an agreement to acquire ITA, a Boston-based software company specialising in organising airline data, including flight times, availability and prices.

“While online flight search is rapidly evolving, we think there is room for more competition and greater innovation. Google has already come up with new ways to organise hard-to-find information, like images, newspaper archives, scholarly papers, books and geographic data.

“Once we’ve completed our acquisition of ITA, 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.

“We’re confident that by combining ITA’s expertise as the leading developer of flight information software with Google’s technology we’ll be able to create great user innovations in flight search. ITA has built a very successful QPX business, and we’re looking forward to working with their current and future customers,” Mayer said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years