The multi-million-dollar deal would not only put Google in direct competition with Web sites such as Kayak and Cheapflights.com, but it potentially could transform the online travel industry.
For several months, the rumor mill had been churning with news of Google’s interest in ITA, causing the travel industry’s key players to scramble to position themselves.
Several travel Web sites, including Kayak.com, threw in competing bids to buy the Boston-based ITA, but were outbid by Google.
Google’s purchase would give the company control of ITA’s ubiquitous flight pricing software, making Google a force to be reckoned with in the travel world.
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ITA offers flight times, availabilities and prices to airlines and Web sites that include: TripAdvisor, Bing, Hotwire, Orbitz, Continental, American Airlines, and Alitalia.
According to Google’s boss, Eric Schmidt, Google’s goal is to use ITA’s information to foster innovation in the travel industry rather than to sell tickets. Schmidt says that Google is also creating flight tools unlike any in existence that will change the way online travel works.
The purchase, however, would turn Google into a fierce competitor in the travel meta-search industry and could drive a stake through traditional, non-Internet flight booking outlets.
US regulatory authorities are also likely to keep a close eye on Google’s new deal to ensure that it is fair to competitors and consumers.
Though Google says it wants to preserve competition in the travel industry and has no plans to lock out competitors, only time will tell what this acquisition really means for online flight bookings.
By Adriana Padilla for PeterGreenberg.com.
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