Google’s announcement of its acquisition of ITA Software, the world’s leading flight information company, in June last year startled industries with its scope, and landed the company in a DOJ antitrust suit. Google was allowed acquisition of ITA in April, and by May had rolled out a flight schedule search feature globally. Now, the online search giant has launched an early version of Google Flight Search with prices and booking (via the airline).
Google Flight Search can be found at www.google.com/flights, or as a link on the search result page when querying flight information. Introducing the feature in a Google blog post, Kourosh Gharachorloo, Engineering Director at the company said:
This is just an early look: the takeoff, not the final destination! You may notice that at the moment we include a limited number of U.S. cities and show results for round-trip economy-class flights only. We’re working hard to improve this feature and look forward to sharing more updates.
Its first step into the online (air) travel market, Google also has certain restrictions imposed on it to ensure it doesn’t get an unfair advantage over the competition – most of whom also use ITA’s flight data. Google is required to isolate the data of ITA’s other customers from its own, it is not allowed to enter into certain exclusive deals with airlines, and, it has to provide a ‘complaint mechanism’ for user feedback on its practices.[RELATED_ARTICLE]
With its massive reach, it looks like Google has a good chance of gaining a strong hand in the online travel industry, but its restrictions will make it tricky for a while. The service’s interface, and breadth of features will be what defines it from other such flight search sites.
Following a similar model to Kayak, the actual booking on Google Flight Search takes place on the airline’s site. The interface has the new standard Google Search/Maps squeaky clean look, and is very quick and intuitive, combined with auto-complete and instant search. (See images below) Almost humorously, the final booking links directing you the airline site are listed as "Ads" . More from the post:
Speed is critical to all the things we love on the web, and travel planning should be no exception. Making changes to dates, destinations, and filters should be as fast as we hope you’ve come to expect from Google.
In due course, when the feature rolls out globally, and gains new features, we are still sure of some stiff competition from the usual suspects in the field – interesting times ahead, with Google’s impetus perhaps exactly what the field, and its customers need.