Google fires up flight search product to controversy

Search giant Google has launched a new flight search feature for its users, in a move that could significantly shake up the online travel search market and has prompted an angry reaction from some.

The company revealed Google Flight Search in a surprise move this week, adding a link to 'flights' for users who type a query with the format "flights from" in the US.

The product builds on flight schedules, which have been showing in Google results since May, and provides departure and arrival times, airline, routing and round trip price like many other meta-search engines.

It's the first product of Google's acquisition of flight search giant ITA, with Google adding in a blog post September 13 that the companies have been "working closely together to build new travel tools that provide faster, more flexible, and more useful results to online travel searches."

At the moment, the product is US-only and limited to economy-class flights, but Google says that it will be rolling it out further, and, in a move that is likely to frustrate travel search competitors such as Expedia and Priceline, the tool only allows booking via airline websites, effectively cutting online travel agencies out altogether.

That has led to immediate criticism from some groups - the Fairsearch Alliance, which campaigned to stop the ITA deal last year, questioned the company's commitment to do what is best for its users in a September 14 blog post " Can we still take Google at its word?".

Competitor Kayak was more circumspect, saying "We’re confident in our ability to compete, and we believe our flight search technology is superior."

Skyscanner, meanwhile, appeared more light-hearted about the affair, pointing out the current limitations of the Google product in a tweet which said "Good start Google - let us know if you need a hand in Europe and Asia…"

Read the blog post: http://insidesearch.blogspot.com/2011/09/early-look-at-our-flight-search-feature.html

Watch an intro video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=OC2bUYVkjrY

 

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