Google Purchases ITA Software for Airline Searches

Google will be taking a more prominent role in airfare and airline searching, announcing on July 1 the purchase of ITA Software, a flight information software company, for $700 million.

ITA has existed for 17 years and provides flight-price aggregating services for sites like Kayak, Orbitz and Hotwire.

Google plans to use the software to improve the way people can search for flight information, allowing fares, times, dates and actual flight plan searches to display on the Google page without people having to go to travel company or airline Web sites.

This is yet another example of how Google is altering their modus operandi. Where previously Google focused on directing traffic to Web sites, it is increasingly providing content to Internet searchers directly.

Similar to the directly provided airfare searches, Google provides content such as weather, shopping information and local restaurant information.

Google’s acquisition of ITA is pending clearance from antitrust enforcers who may look to reign in the search giant, which currently controls 63 percent of the American search market.

Many key players in the $132-billion-a-year travel industry worry that Google’s entering the market will rattle things up too much.

According to The New York Times, companies such as Kayak, Expedia and Microsoft may lobby against the acquisition during the antitrust proceedings, and some airlines may pull against the merger too.

The Times article explains that airlines are leery of how Google will display the information on search pages; they scorn the idea of having to pay for their Web sites listed among Google’s own results.

However, Google claims in a press release announcing the acquisition that the move will benefit passengers, airlines and online travel agencies by “making it easier for users to comparison shop for flights and airfares and by driving more potential customers to airlines’ and online travel agencies’ Web sites.”

According to the Times article, the service will allow customers to ask open-ended travel queries like, “Where can get within seven hours and within this price?”