UNITED STATES Expedia Inc. and Sabre Holdings are part of a group of online travel heavyweights that have aligned in an attempt to block Google Inc.’s proposed US$700 million acquisition of flight data provider ITA Software Inc.
The coalition, which also includes Kayak.com and Farelogix Inc., is appealing to the U.S. Justice Department to block the takeover on antitrust grounds, arguing that it could pave the way for Google to develop a monopoly on online travel buying. The coalition has launched a website, FairSearch.org, to help lobby its case.
“Google has tremendous power in the search market, and it gives Google the ability to steer users in directions that are best for Google,” Expedia’s counsel, Thomas Barnett, tells The Wall Street Journal. “All of that would ultimately end up harming consumers.”
Microsoft Corp., owner of the Bing.com search engine, is separately lobbying the Justice Department to oppose the deal. Bing.com relies heavily on ITA data to feed its travel search results.
Google claims that ITA’s technology will help provide more useful information to consumers, and it says it will honor all existing ITA contracts. Google also claims it has no plans to sell airline tickets itself.
About 65% of online air bookings flow through ITA software.
While the Google-ITA deal does not have direct ramifications on the hotel industry, companies throughout the travel trade are watching Google’s moves very closely. By virtue of its online reach, Google is already among the most powerful companies in the sector, and aggressive expansion could alter the online travel landscape dramatically going forward.