Checking in on Google Flight Search


During the lengthy antitrust review of Google’s acquisition of ITA Software, Google promised that “the acquisition will benefit passengers, airlines and online travel agents 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’ websites.” Needless to say, when Google announced the launch of its Google Flight Search product last September, we were eager to see if Google kept its word.

Benefit passengers, airlines and online travel agents? Despite its promises, Google excludes lower-priced fares that come from online travel agents or metasearch engines. These online travel sites often have special fares (like ones that combine multiple carriers) and offer other deals that save users money by packaging, for example, flights and hotel reservations together. Excluding links to non-airline sites is certainly not good for passengers.

What’s Google’s reasoning? In Google’s own words, “the airlines don’t want the online travel agents included.”

The airlines? Google must have another reason. Ah, yes. “The goals of the advertising business model do not always correspond to providing quality search to users.” (Larry Page and Sergey Brin, 1998).

Google Flight Search threatens competition, innovation and consumer choice. See for yourself.

Spoiler alert: The initial rollout of Google Flight Search may also violate Department of Transportation consumer protection rules.