Since the DOJ’s approved Google’s acquisition of ITA Software, we’ve been expecting the release of Google’s own flight search product.
If you remember, Google’s reason for getting in to flight search was to provide better results for users. According to Google’s Public Policy Blog, “When someone searches for “flights from San Francisco to London,” we’d like to provide not just ‘ten blue links’ but exact flight times and prices as well.”
How does it work so far? When you type “fly new york to sfo” (without the quotes) into Google, you’ll notice that the coveted first spot on the page on the results page is Google’s new flight search product. It tells you there are 27-31 flights from NY to SFO each day. It also gives you three blue links as to where you can book a trip. Interestingly, the first link (United) also happens to be the only ad on the page. Say you click on United, you’re taken to United.com where you’ll need to start your search from square one.
When you expand the “Schedule of non-stop flights” you can see all the flight schedules from NY to SFO, but this isn’t even a list of blue links, it is just a list. If you find something you like, you must visit one of the airline sites. If you want to compare prices or itineraries, you’ll need to visit one of the fare comparison sites.
Compared to the existing flight search tools like Expedia, KAYAK and Bing, Google’s product is unarguably inferior. (Yes, Expedia, KAYAK and Bing are all coalition members – but can you really argue with us?)
Despite its limitations, we’re not surprised that Google released its product (which does not yet use ITA’s data) on Friday. We think Clint Boulton at eWeek is really on to something when he says: “Google’s flight search move is clearly aimed at planting a seed for the summer vacation rush, which yields millions of searches and ads to pair with them. And that’s Google’s play here.”