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.

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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.



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Google Confirms FTC Antitrust Inquiry, But Says Reasons are “Unclear”

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There were some rumors earlier this week that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was about to launch a formal antitrust investigation into Google’s “core search advertising business.” Today, Google confirmed that it has indeed received formal notification from the FTC that “it has begun a review of [its] business.” In its official statement, Google notes that it’s “unclear” what exactly the FTC’s concerns are, but if an earlier Wall Street Journal report is correct, the FTC is especially interested in investigating if Google has abused its dominant position in the search advertising space. (more…)



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Smart Move: Groupon Teams Up With Expedia to Launch Travel Deals Site

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Groupon today launched the newest addition to its group buying site: Groupon Getaways – a travel-focused deals site that’s powered by Expedia. There are, of course, already a number of similar sites on the market, with LivingSocial Escapes being one of the market leaders.

Thanks to its partnership with Expedia, though, Groupon will be in an extremely advantageous position to rival all of the other sites that took the basic Groupon model and applied it to travel before Groupon itself got a chance to do so.

Take this recent LivingSocial Escapes deal for a hotel in Mexico, for example. It’s a good deal and I’m sure LivingSocial will make some money off it, but given that nobody is going to drive to Cabo San Lucas, LivingSocial won’t make a dime of the travel arrangements that its users make to actually make use of this deal. Groupon and Expedia, on the other hand, can offer users a full-service travel service that doesn’t just include the deal, but also transportation to the location and tickets for local events and sights. Besides the money Groupon makes on selling these deals then, it could also get affiliate fees for when its users book their flights, for example.

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