Google released the first fruits of its ITA Software Flight Search data back in September, providing users with flight schedules and prices to compare several travel options.
That's not nearly as direct as simply searching for the same flights via Google.com. Now users can conduct flight searches to many destinations across the country right from the Google home page. Users can even filter by date and price right in the results.
Today, I searched for "flights from JFK to SFO" from Google's home page and saw this:
Clicking on Delta, the first option in the travel matrix, I see this:
Note the refinements I circled that let me filter by airline, stops/non-stops and specific connections. The Flight Search pairs well with the new airport layout functionality in Google Maps for Android 6.0.
If there is one thing that bothers me about this it's that the flight grid of choices isn't top of the search results -- options for solitary airlines are.
Clearly, if I'm searching for flight info, I want the ITA grid, right? It's only the travel data nearly every travel search site users.
I think I know why. If Google surfaces its own search results atop the Website it will provide a wider target for Congress and the Federal Trade Commission to attack Google for favoring its own results over other travel search providers.
Politicians in this country are on the prowl for Google because they can make a name for themselves by slaying the next, big, bad monopolist since Microsoft.
Congress and the FTC claim they are sticking up for the consumer, but it's really a senseless exercise in pushing forward back.
If most U.S. consumers are in regular Google searchers, then it would behoove Google to serve its ITA data first, not those ham-handed airline Website links for the sake of pandering to politicians.
Politicians may think this is fair and free, but it's a detriment to searchers coming for the precious, accurate, ITA data Google now serves.
Government watchdogs are doing to Google what they did to Microsoft, making it jumpy and cautious. If this happens too much, Google's search quality will suffer more.