When Google first mentioned getting into the online flight retail businesses by buying up ITA Software, the company that makes the flight search software used by airlines and flying search engines, other Internet travel monsters freaked out. Even the Department of Justice didn't like the idea of the biggest, most powerful search engine not only entering, but owning the company that drives the entire business. The DOJ then investigated the deal for anti-trust violations, but in April decided that under certain conditions the deal wouldn't hinder competition. Today Google delivered its scary travel-site killer, reports Bits Blog's Clair Cain Miller. "Google introduced flight search on Tuesday, competing head-to-head with travel search engines like Kayak, Orbitz and Microsoft’s Bing." So far, though, it doesn't look like anything for the little guys to worry about--at least, not yet.
With ITA Software, Google promised a new travel search world. "Google has said that it wanted to buy ITA to provide a new, open-ended kind of travel search, so that, for instance, people could ask Google where they could go to find warm weather and beaches in December for under $300 round-trip," explains Miller. That, the current product does not deliver. It has some filters to figure out where to go, like time and price, but not much else. "Kayak and Expedia currently offer more feature-rich search portals," points out TechCrunch's Leena Rao. The engine is also pretty fast, and, like Bing, compares prices over time, and like Hipmunk, has a visual graph of flights based on duration and price. But it's also missing some key stuff that competitors offer, continues Rao. "The portal doesn’t feature one-way or multi-city fares. For now, travel search just focuses on flights but it should be interesting to see if Google will add hotels, and more to the search site."
So far, this meager site doesn't have anyone too excited and certainly doesn't have competitor Kayak worried. "We recognize Google is a formidable competitor, but they haven’t been successful in every vertical they’ve entered," Robert Birge, Kayak’s chief marketing officer said in a statement, reports Miller. "We use multiple data sources and proprietary technology, all of which helps us in our efforts to provide people with comprehensive, fast and accurate answers to their flight search needs."
Of course, this doesn't mean Google won't expand its product to something sparklier. And if it does, the competition might not sound so confident, explains The Next Web's Courtney Boyd Myers. "While the current travel search product is rough to say the least, the potential for Google to take over in this space might have industry big names like Kayak and smaller companies like the startup darling Hipmunk, a tad afraid. (Although, until Google implements 'Agony' as a search option I’m sticking with Hipmunk.)" Given Google's stated intentions, and its recent foray into hotel search, we expect this travel endeavor to expand and possibly dominate, but for now, Kayak & Co. can rest easy.