IT giant Google has turned its sights on the Australian travel market with the local launch of its Google Flights search engine.
But there have already been warnings from travel industry insiders who say the IT company’s involvement can only be bad of airlines and travel companies.
Google Flights, which has been available in overseas markets for several months, allows users to compare flights and prices for varying destinations and dates, with options to search by airline, time and class.
“Whether you’re traveling from Wollongong to WA, or Tullamarine to Townsville, Google Flights will give you travel inspiration and surface the best available flight options,” Google explained in a blog post Wednesday.
“Starting today, you can search on Google for flights to a destination by searching for things like ‘Flights to Cairns’ or ‘Flights to New Zealand.'”
Before selecting a flight, users are notified with tips on how to find the best price for their specific route, including recommendations for alternate airports and potential price drops based on historic prices.
Google also provides an “explore” option for your holiday inspiration.
“Once you select your departure and return dates, you’ll be presented with a list of ‘Best flights’; which represents the best tradeoff of convenience and price,” Google said.
Google also provides an “explore” option for your holiday inspiration for broader travel aspirations.
If you’re not ready to book or prices are too steep, you can track a flight and receive email notifications when the price eventually drops.
‘Bad for airlines’
Bobby Healy, chief technology officer at Irish-based travel IT company, CarTrawler, told an airline travel conference last month that Google Flights is bad for the travel industry.
Speaking at the CAPA – Centre for Aviation’s Airline Leader Summit in Dublin, Mr Healy described a “trip planning funnel”, with review sites at the top, passing down through metasearch and online travel agencies, before reaching airlines at the bottom of the funnel.
As the funnel narrows towards the bottom, he said the greater the value added.
Mr Healy said Google’s strategy in the travel industry was to achieve critical mass in the market, then to take the top of the funnel and concentrate it to squeeze airlines out, or to make them pay.
He said if Google controls the top of the funnel, it will represent the biggest loss of control of distribution, and consequent rise in cost and margin erosion, ever seen by the airline industry.
Mr Healy said his warning was based on Google’s increasing exploitation of its monopoly positions in online search, on Android apps, and in digital marketing to intercept consumer searches for branded airline names and to direct them first to its Google Flights product.
He advised airlines only to provide Google with their inventories on their own terms.