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FairSearch.org Wants More, Not Less Competition in Online Travel

It was disappointing to see Arthur Frommer’s blog post promote the inaccuracy that FairSearch.org is against competition in online travel and technology. Our concern is that Google – which is already the leading source of online travel search with 30% of the market, Experian Hitwise says – has chosen to acquire ITA rather than license the technology that many other sites rely on to offer a competitive product for flight search. A majority of flight search today depends on ITA’s unique software and proprietary access to key data.

Why has Google made that decision when other major companies have entered this space through licensing the software? It is very troubling that they have chosen to enter the market in a way that will enable them to cut off access to this critical component. Combining it with Google’s general search dominance is threatens both competition and consumers.

Arthur underplays ITA’s significance in online travel – its software runs backend flight search for 65% of U.S. sales at airline Websites, powering 6 of the top 10 airlines’ sites, and a majority of searches at online travel sites flow through ITA’s software.

FairSearch.org is pro-competition, and we welcome Google’s expanded offering to their online travel presence – Google doesn’t have to acquire ITA and give itself control over competitors’ access to technology to do that. Our argument is that allowing Google to acquire a critical input to airfare search technology will enable Google over time to consolidate online search for flights, ultimately leading to higher advertising prices, raising fares for consumers and business travelers, and slowing innovation in online travel.

To learn more about why the Google-ITA will increase the cost of travel for consumers, see “Google Buys ITA – A Travel Story.”