Australians will soon be able to use Google to book their International travel, a move that is already rattling travel agents who claim that it is an “abuse of power”.
Google said it is working to add international ones, and ultimately, it aims to trigger the tool with searches such as “flights to somewhere sunny for under $500 in January.
In the USA Google are already delivering domestic travel services with Google searches such as “NY to LA” now delivering interactive charts of the cheapest airfares between the two cities? Users are then linked directly with an airline websites.
Currently several major travel services such as WebJet and Expedia rely on Google to deliver them traffic. In the future these organisations could find themselves pushed down the search pecking order with Google linked services given high priority.
According to Compete travel groups such as Expedia get between 10% to 20% of their traffic, according to web analytics firm Compete.
The Wall Street Journal said that earlier this year, Google faced antitrust scrutiny from the US Justice Department over its plans to acquire ITA Software the flight-data company that powers Google’s new tool and some of its competitors, including Orbitz and Kayak Interactive. Those sites opposed the Google-ITA transaction.
Google eventually made several concessions before the DOJ including a claim that they will “build tools that drive more traffic to airline and online travel agency sites.” Competitors say that Google is now violating the spirit of that commitment.
Google acknowledges it has failed to make good on assurances it would link to the travel sites, but the company says it had no choice. “The airlines told us that they would not give us [travel data] if we provided booking links to” online travel agencies, Jeremy Wertheimer, ITA’s founder and now a Google vice president, said at an online travel conference last month.
He added that Google still wants to include travel sites, and “we’ll keep knocking on that door to see if things change.” A Google spokesman declined further comment.
There is no sign consumers are being harmed by Google’s new features.
Observers claim that Google’s flight search is benefitting airlines that have long struggled to draw traffic away from online travel agencies, which charge airlines for bookings.
It costs airlines more than $11 to process a booking made via online travel agencies, compared to less than $1 for one made on their own websites, said Henry Harteveldt, analyst at Atmosphere Research.