Thursday, 6 October 2011

Fighter Jets at The Ready: An Industry Overview on Google Flights

It would be wrong to let another week go by without a blog post on the Google Flights search shenanigans. I’ve been busy researching for next year’s TDS Europe Summit in London, and there’s no doubt that this is the number one topic on everyone’s lips.

We’ve been curious since the ITA acquisition that Google would be experimenting with meta-search and here is the product (along with Google Hotels too, which only differs because it doesn’t just promote the direct channel, also OTAs). Both have only launched in the US and haven’t been widely advertised, but regardless it is certainly one of 2011’s most interesting developments.

The Flights function may encourage the consumer to book direct through the supplier, which begs the question, should the intermediaries (and also the meta-search sites of course) be prepared for Google travel domination? Intermediaries seem relatively un-nervous (from my conversations so far) but of course watchful eyes are upon the “elephant in the room.” Perhaps this is because Google Flights (and subsequently Google Hotels) won’t be offering a full range of products or services in the same way, and also Google has openly spoken about their pledge to never sell travel directly.

Google has (and still is) distributing and advertising for meta-search sites, but will they be pushing Google Flights from now on above all else? What will happen to paid keywords and paid advertising space via Google? A lot of my industry contacts have been asking these questions with genuine concern. Skyscanner has a particularly good grip on the European market with a large, solid fan base for consumers and business partners alike. So, what is Google Flights offering that Skyscanner doesn’t? Certainly nothing superior (in my humble opinion) other than time. What do I mean? Well- with the majority of people globally now using Google as their designated homepage (although Facebook is on the up and up too), Google Flights has the lazy factor. Type in that you need a flight from Los Angeles to New York, and there you go, it’s all listed after just one click. But- is that enough?

We’ll all wait with anticipation for more developments! It would be fantastic to hear any thoughts on this topic. Drop them to me via email- or tweet me at @rosieakenhead