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May 31, 2011

Google Incorporates Flight Schedules into Search Results

By Beecher Tuttle, TMCnet Contributor

Google (News - Alert) made its first big splash in the travel information space on Friday by announcing the addition of a flight schedule feature to its main search page.

The new functionality will allow users to access schedules between two cities, as well as find all flights leaving from one particular airport. For example, if you query “flights from LAX to Chicago,” the results page will be headlined by a Google window that shows all of the non-stop flights that connect the two cities, which airlines offer them and on what days.

Users who don’t yet have a destination in mind can find all of the non-stop flights leaving from a particular airport by typing in “flights from LAX.”

“This is just a small step toward making richer travel information easier to find,” Google software engineer Petter Wedum noted in a blog post.

The move to incorporate flight information into its search results comes just two months after the Department of Justice approved Google’s highly controversial $700 million acquisition of ITA (News - Alert) Software, which powers online reservation searches for many airlines and online travel sites, including industry leaders like Orbitz, TripAdvisor and Hotwire.

Critics asked the government to nix the deal because it could decrease competition by giving Google the ability to direct consumers to their own travel sites. In addition, they argued that Google’s results would be prioritized ahead of other travel booking sites on the search results page.

The DOJ approved the deal after Google agreed to several conditions, including developing and licensing ITA’s software to other companies in the travel space “on commercially reasonable terms.” In addition, Google must establish an internal firewall to prevent the use of data gathered from ITA customers.

Wedum said that the flight schedule feature in question does not rely on ITA’s search technology. It will be interesting to see the reaction of the industry when Google starts launching features that do use ITA’s software.

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Beecher Tuttle is a TMCnet contributor. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

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