An official announcement from Google regarding its merger with ITA Software is imminent, report insiders close to the company.
This news has attorneys for the Department of Justice preparing for a possible anti-trust lawsuit against the search behemoth.
If announced, the Justice Department will have 30 days to present a case against the merger, a decision that could have permanent effects on the way Americans book travel.
The $700 million purchase of ITA, announced last July, set off a wave of unrest in the online travel industry, spurring a coalition of companies to form Fairsearch.org in protest of the merger.
Chief amongst the opposition is Sabre Holdings, which maintains a rival global distribution system to ITA. Sabre powers flight information for a network of leading online travel agents, such as Expedia Inc., and its own Travelocity.
Joining them are online travel aggregators such as Kayak.com and Microsoft’s Bing Travel that rely upon ITA’s technology. Their concern is that Google’s control of ITA could spell their demise if Google chose to restrict their access to ITA’s technology.
According to FairSearch.org, ITA powers 65 percent of all online flight searches on U.S. airline sites, and 30 percent of all searches begin on Google.com.
ITA is only one of numerous acquisitions made by Google in recent years. The search giant spent nearly $1.6 billion in 2009 acquiring 20 companies.
In the past two years, the Department of Justice has yet to block a merger, even approving a controversial union between Ticketmaster and Live Nation last January.
But Google has built a reputation for entering markets and leveraging its capital and search monopoly to dominate, most recently demonstrated in the U.S. smartphone market with their Android OS.
This is likely to give pause to the Department of Justice, as they debate whether a Google-owned ITA can still fairly provide consumers with unbiased flight information.
By Fernando Padilla for PeterGreenberg.com.
Related links on PeterGreenberg.com:
- News Analysis: What The Battle Between American Airlines & OTAs Means
- Sabre Dumps American Airlines As Online Booking Wars Heat Up
- FairSearch Adds Members In Opposition To Google’s Acquisition of ITA Software
- Expedia Protests American Airlines Decision By Hiding Its Fares
- US Airlines Bullish For 2011: More Fees For Travelers
- Delta, American Airlines Pull Fares From Some Third-Party Web Sites