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September 16, 2011

Google launches airfare search in a low key affair

Deploys ITA Software tools it owned from $676m deal

By CBR Staff Writer

Search engine company has launched its troubled flights search feature in a low key affair this week.

The company added https://www.google.com/flights to its search feature with a revised approach to airfare queries. At present, the feature supports queries related to flight searches only in the US.

The search engine company’s effort to get into the lucrative air flight search had raised antitrust concerns, with competitors claiming that Google’s entry would trample the competition in online travel.

After a long battle, the company finally got the US Justice Department’s approval for the acquisition of airline fare tracker ITA Software in April. This week, the company deployed the tools it owned after its $676m purchase of ITA Software.

After the initial announcement of the Google-ITA deal, Microsoft and a few online travel sites such as Kayak.com and Expedia had asked the court to review the deal, citing monopoly concerns. They were represented by FairSearch.org.

The Justice Department agreed that unless modified, the acquisition "would have substantially lessened competition among providers of comparative flight search websites in the United States."

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The Department took about eight months to conclude the review.

While approving the deal, the US Justice Department anti-trust division asked Google to report any complaints it receives from companies that are directly or indirectly related to the proposed settlement. It also said that Google will be monitored for anti-competitive behavior including manipulation of search results.

Deputy Assistant Attorney General Joseph Wayland had said, "The proposed settlement assures that airfare comparison and booking websites will be able to compete effectively, providing benefits for consumers."

Google had also agreed that it will license ITA’s travel information software to third parties and have an arbitration process for disputes over fees.

FairSearch.org had said, "By putting in place strong, ongoing oversight and enforcement tools, the department has ensured that consumers will continue to benefit from vibrant competition and innovation in travel search."

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