Google's Flight Search makes competitors angry

Posted by Mark Raby

What happens when Google steps into the $100+ billion travel industry?

The other players in the industry start to get rather irritated. Now some of them are starting to cry foul and pull the antitrust card on Google.

If you run a Google search for, say, "JFK to Las Vegas," the first thing you'll see is a list of prices and airlines, with a completely customizable tool that allows users to search for specific dates and layover options without leaving the search results page. Navigating through the tool will eventually lead users directly to the respective airline's website.

This of course leaves sites like Priceline and Travelocity out of the picture. Some of these comparison engines are arguing that by forcing its own travel tool to appear at the top of the results page, Google is practicing "an explicit policy to intercept general search queries with their products." That's a quote from Kayak executive Robert Birge, which appeared in a recent Wall Street Journal article.

Travel sites reportedly rely on Google for nearly 20% of their traffic, and sites like Kayak - which also links users directly to airline websites - are most directly affected. For the airlines, though, it's a great deal. Google claims the new flight search tool is due in part to advertising money paid by the airlines, which fits in with its policy of sponsored results showing up above organic results.