Its taken longer than we expected but as expected Google have leveraged its $700 million purchase of ITA last year to launch Flight Search, in the process potentially throwing out the gauntlet to the likes of Kayak etc. What it certainly does is signal Google’s intent to move out of its core search areas into more specialist verticals with flight being one of the earliest to see a formal product launch however we have obviously seen finance and retail tested before.
The ITA deal obviously is the big framework behind this. If you remember ITA were a Boston (US) based software company specialising in organising airline data such as flight times, flight availability and pricing, similar to Amadeus (one of its biggest competitors). Folowing nine months of wrangling the Department of Justice in the US recently gave the go ahead to the deal and we now have a potentially formidable competitor to the some of the big aggregators and flight vertical search specialists. A crumb of comfort for UK operators at present is that this is solely confined to the US at present, with international destinations not available through the system however if we look at recent history, one would suggest technology and data allowing, we should see mature markets such as the UK seeing a rollout of this certainly in the near to mid future.
It is important to note – and Google are keen to emphasise this – flight results is not influenced by any paid relationships (at present). Airlines control how their flights are marketed, so as with other flight search providers, the links to book point to airline websites only. From my understanding Google are also working to create additional opportunities for partners in the travel industry to participate as well.
Source: Search Engine Watch
Source: Search Engine Watch
We have already seen flight data pulled through into the SERPS however one would suggest that Google will be quick to integrate more advanced functionality into these blended search results based on the existing functionality of the new flight search product. It makes commercial sense to do this if nothing else.
There are some nice touches to the interface. The ‘price Vs duration filter’ appears below the price comparison map and looks very much like a scatter graph with price appears along the X-axis and flight time/duration along the Y-axis. Further to that you can select an airline in the sidebar and those specific flights on the scatter graph get highlighted in blue making data search very much easier to deal with.
It should be noted. At present all the data comes from feeds at present something which whilst great from Google’s perspective is not necessarily great for optimisation purposes. What it will in all likelihood mean is structured data being provided to Google so the requirements for SEO’s to get involved may be significantly diminished. I would also add, this is one product I would expect to see some major changes to over the coming months, and particularly where mobile is concerned as the current system from my testing is still a little slow and cumbersome. What I would also add is that this is another signal of intent, Google is no longer a generic search operator – we are going to see more and more vertical offshoots over the coming months and years – and there is likely to be one big winner in all of this – Google.