Google to dominate online travel selling, we hope

Late last week, Google won government clearance on its $700 million bid for ITA Software in a deal that opens the door for the innovative Internet search powerhouse to dominate online travel selling.

ITA Software, who’s latest innovations include include ITA PSS, a next-generation passenger services system, Needle, a smarter way to organize and publish data on the web, and OnTheFly, an airfare shopping mobile application will make a nice addition to Googles stable of brands. ITA already powers the reservation systems of most US airlines and several online fare-comparison brands like Kayak, TripAdvisor and Hotwire. It looks like a match made in heaven as tech-savvy Google gets an infusion of travel sense from a leader in that game.

But there is a catch. Make that possible bump in the road that we hope they get over smoothly.

While Google is buying and hiring to solidify the top position in all it does, it’s competitors and the government are looking very closely at what they are up to. They fear Google could use it’s substantial Internet search engine clout to monopolize the online travel business.

Would that be the same fear Yahoo might have had about Google’s search engine capability? Perhaps a natural order of things will play out here too.

To win approval, Google agreed to ongoing federal monitoring of its behavior. Google also agreed that ITA will continue to provide service to existing customers for five years in a “reasonable and nondiscriminatory way”. That should satisfy the Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department for a while but they both have Google in their sights, ready to pull the trigger on a full-scale investigation, given the chance.

In his blog, Google’s Senior Vice President Jeff Huber writes:

“How cool would it be if you could type “flights to somewhere sunny for under $500 in May” into Google and get not just a set of links but also flight times, fares and a link to sites where you can actually buy tickets quickly and easily? Well that’s exactly why we announced our intention to buy ITA Software, a Cambridge, Mass.-based company that specializes in organizing airline data last July-and we’re excited that the U.S. Department of Justice today approved our acquisition.”

Last July, Gadling’s Darren Murph called the ITA buy “a huge win for consumers who are tired of crawling three different airline search engines to get a somewhat comprehensive look at their options.” adding “we personally can’t wait for this marriage to officially bear fruit.”

Now that the sale has been approved and Google has agreed play nice, we should start seeing something pretty quickly. Until then, there’s always Google maps:

Flickr photo by brionv