Google Starts Providing Airline Rates Within Search Results

Posted Dec 27, 2011

Google has started rolling out a tool that lists airline rates within their search results. The results link directly to their airlines’ websites rather than online travel agency websites like Kayak, Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, Priceline, etc.

The online travel agencies are saying that Google is abusing their power in web search to gain a competitive advantage in the $110 billion online travel business. Below is a screenshot of what a Google search looks like when you input DTW to LA. Notice how the airline results are on top and Expedia and Kayak are placed below?

Why did Google set up the airline results this way? “The airlines told us that they would not give us [travel data] if we provided booking links to” the online travel agencies said ITA founder and Google VP Jeremy Wertheimer. Google acquired ITA Software for $700 million in July 2010. Before the Justice Department approved of the deal, Google had to make concessions such as building tools that would drive more traffic to the airline websites and online travel agency websites. The only travel agencies are saying that Google has not made good on that promise.

Google said that they still want to include online travel agency websites to the airline rate results so “we’ll keep knocking on that door to see if things change,” stated a Google spokesperson. As of right now, there are no signs that consumers are being negatively affected by Google’s search results for airline rates. The results on Google almost always show the lowest fare. Microsoft’s Bing search engine displays airline search results in a very similar manner as Google.

“It’s concerning that they said that during a government investigation as a core argument and then just sort of ignored it,” stated Kayak chief marketing officer Robert Birge in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. “It would be nice to have a company that holds itself up as a light of corporate morality to actually stand by what they say.”