Google's $700 million bid to buy travel software company ITA was formally protested by Expedia, Kayak.com and others with the formation of FairSearch.org Oct. 26.
Top travel Websites have marshaled their efforts to stop Google's planned
purchase of travel software company ITA Software, which the companies claim
would give Google too much sway over their industry.
Expedia and its brands Expedia.com, Hotwire and TripAdvisor; Sabre Holdings
and its brand Travelocity; Kayak and its brand SideStep; and Farelogix formed
the FairSearch.org coalition to urge the U.S. Justice Department to challenge's
Google's $700 million purchase bid for ITA
ITA's software helps airlines, search engines and online travel companies
organize flight information, including flight times, availability and prices.
FairSearch.org claims ITA's technology drives 65 percent of all carrier-direct
online flight searches in the United States.
Google said it plans to use ITA's data to build new flight search tools that
will make it easier for users to search for flights, compare flight options and
ITA customers include American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Southwest
Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways and Virgin Atlantic.
But it's ITA's search engine customers that are most concerned with this
deal. Microsoft Bing, Hotwire and Kayak.com and online travel companies Expedia
and Orbitz all use ITA's software to populate their travel search products.
With the exception of Orbitz, Priceline, Vayant
, Travelport and a few others, most of companies are
concerned that if Google gets ITA it will become a travel search powerhouse
that will cut off their access to the valuable ITA data.
Thomas Barnett, who as a former assistant attorney general led the DOJ's
Antitrust Division from 2005 to 2008 and currently counsels to Expedia, said
Google could use ITA to stifle competition in online flight search and to
extend its dominance in Internet search into search for online travel.
"The end result could be higher travel prices, fewer travel choices for
consumers and businesses, and less innovation in online travel search,"
according to a statement by FairSearch.org.
Google Senior Product Manager Andrew Silverman wrote in a blog post
Oct. 26 that it's "disappointing that
a number of travel companies" have announced their concerns about the
Silverman maintained that Google plans no anti-competitive practices,
arguing that it will honor ITA's existing agreements and hopes to add the
travel Websites as new partners.
The search engine noted that ITA does not set ticket prices or sell them,
"so it's hard to see why [the acquisition] would result in higher
The FairSearch.org coalition, a coalescence of protests Expedia and the
others have made since the deal was announced, is an effort to put wood behind
the DOJ's ongoing investigation into Google's play for ITA.
Concerned by the travel companies' claims, the DOJ launched an inquiry into
the bid, and issued
a second request for information in August.