SiliconFilter

Google’s New (Limited) Flight Search Challenges Kayak and Co.

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Google today launched the first iteration of its new flight search feature that will allow users to find cheap airfares right from the Google interface without having to go through sites like Orbitz, Kayak or Expedia. For now, this feature is still somewhat limited and only supports major U.S. airports. The potential, here, however, is huge and even though this is a first version of this product, the service’s features easily rival (and sometimes surpass) those of sites like Kayak. The feature is fast, smart and will put a lot of pressure on the incumbents in this business.

A few months ago, after a long regulatory delay, Google finally closed on its acquisition of ITA Software, a major supplier of IT solutions for airlines and travel services (including Orbitz and many major U.S.-based airlines). This flight search feature is the first fruit of this acquisition and finally gets Google a strong foothold in the travel market – a potentially lucrative market that Google, for some reason, waited a long time to enter.

google_flight_search

Features

There are obviously already plenty of flight booking services out there, ranking from Kayak to Hipmunk. For the most part, Google offers the same feature set to search for flights and lets you filter by airline, airline alliance, departure time, etc.

flight_search_limitedGoogle, however, is using some smart visualization features to get ahead of the competition. You can, for example, easily compare flight duration and price on a scatter graph and then use the built-in slider to filter out flights that are too long or expensive. The list of available flights is then updated in real time.

There are also advanced tools, including the ability to search for multiple nearby airports and the ability to discover days when tickets are the cheapest. You can also easily compare the prices on different dates.

Verdict: A Winner

While still limited by the low number of airports it currently supports, it’s already clear that Google has a winner on its hands here. In testing the service, it quickly becomes clear that it is faster and easier to use than Kayak and similar services.



6:32 pm


Android Takes Flight With Panasonic's New In-Flight Entertainment System

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When it comes to in-flight entertainment these days, quite a few airlines give their passengers the option to watch live TV on domestic flights and on-demand videos and a few games on international trips. Even the most advanced systems on the market today, though, only scratch the surface of what these systems could do if you coupled them with an Internet connection, touchscreen and a decent operating system. Panasonic today announced just such a system. The new eX3 in-flight entertainment system is based on Google’s Android operating system, offers a highly customizable touchscreen interface and offers an Internet connection as well as the ability for airlines to develop their own apps on top of it. Whether this system will ever take flight, of course, remains to be seen.

Panasonic envisions that airlines could offer their customers a personalized experience on this system that would allow them to set their own preferences (weather, news sources, Twitter feeds, Facebook etc.) once and then get the same experience every time they get on one of the airlines’ planes. The company’s executive director of corporate sales product management Neil James likens the new system to a “home theater environment” that – unlike most of the in-flight entertainment systems on the market today – is focused on aesthetics and connectivity.

According to Panasonic, the turnaround from creating an in-flight entertainment package today (movies, TV shows etc.) has generally been around 45 days. With an Internet-connected system, that turnaround time will be close to zero and allow for a far more interesting in-flight entertainment experience than today’s rather stale systems.

Of course, given the state of the airline industry in the U.S., I don’t expect we will see these systems on domestic flights anytime soon (and when we do, we’ll likely have to swipe a credit card to actually use it). After all, just having WiFi access on a plane is sadly still a luxury on too many airlines today…

Panasonic eX3 promo video


10:50 am