Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Sept. 13 revealed Flight Search, which lets users search for airline flights and fares right from Google.
Google Flight Search is the first fruit of Google's integration of ITA Software, the flight data provider it purchased in April after a protracted antitrust investigation by the Justice Department. The service will compete with popular travel search products from Microsoft Bing, Kayak and Orbitz, to name a few.
To access the service, users click a "flights" tab in the left-hand panel on Google.com, where they are whisked away to the company's Flight Search. Users can also simply bookmark the google.com/flights Web page in their browser.
Google began surfacing summaries of flight schedule information right on its search results page. However, Flight Search lets users not only see flight schedules and prices and compare several travel dates at once, but quickly make changes to dates and destinations. Users may filter flights by airline, flight time and price.
Google said flights are chosen primarily based on cost and total travel time. The company sets the filters for price and flight duration options it "deems reasonable," though users may adjust the filters to see more flights.
Flight Search, rolling out over the course of the day, is limited to only coach flights to some U.S. cities. Google will improve both areas in the future.
The company also stressed that flight results are not influenced by any paid relationships-meaning airlines that advertise on Google don't get preferential placement on Google's Flight Search.
"Airlines control how their flights are marketed, so as with other flight search providers, our booking links point to airline Websites only," explained Kourosh Gharachorloo, Google engineering director, in a blog post. "We're working to create additional opportunities for our other partners in the travel industry to participate as well."
The notion that Google would leverage its dominant position in search advertising to favor those who paid for ads was certainly one of the concerns Google faced since it offered to buy ITA in July 2010.
Most vendors in the online travel industry use ITA's QPX software, and they didn't take too kindly to the idea that Google would hold sway over the data they use as the lifeblood of their travel search endeavors.
Expedia (NASDAQ:EXPE), Kayak and others in October formed the FairSearch.org coalition to oppose Google's acquisition of ITA as being anti-competitive. These companies, which were later joined by Microsoft Bing, argued that Google would cut off their access to the ITA data firehose.
Google vowed to honor ITA's existing contracts, which was one of the conditions imposed on it by the DOJ, the regulator that blessed the deal five months ago.