Online companies form coalition against Google-ITA deal

By Jerry Limone

Online travel companies have launched to lobby against Google’s $700 million acquisition of ITA Software, provider of a widely used air search and pricing platform.

The FairSearch coalition consists of Expedia, TripAdvisor, Hotwire, Sabre Holdings, Travelocity, FareLogix, Kayak and SideStep.

The companies said that acquiring ITA Software would "give Google control over the software that powers most of its closest rivals in travel search and could enable Google to manipulate and dominate the online air travel marketplace. The end result could be higher travel prices, fewer travel choices for consumers and businesses and less innovation in online travel search."

Thomas Barnett, who served as assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division from 2005 to 2008 and who serves as counsel to Expedia, said Google could use ITA Software to stifle competition in online flight search and to extend its dominance in Internet search into search for online travel.

"ITA plays a crucial role in online flight search and has been a key driver of competition and innovation in online travel," Barnett said. "The Justice Department needs to thoroughly investigate the proposed acquisition and to take whatever action is necessary to prevent harm to consumers in online flight search as well as online travel search more generally."

FairSearch said Google is the source of more than 30% of all search-engine traffic to online travel sites, and that ITA provides the technology behind 65% of all airline-direct online flight searches in the U.S.

In July, Google announced that it had agreed to acquire ITA. In late August, the Department of Justice asked Google for more information about the planned acquisition.

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