Travel sites still say that Google is using its own algorithm to promote its flight searches and hiding those of competitors, while the search titan maintains that's the only way airlines wanted to do business.
"The airlines told us that they would not give us [travel data] if we provided booking links to" online travel agencies, Jeremy Wertheimer, an ITA Software founder and now a Google vice president, said at an online travel conference last month according to the Wall Street Journal.
The travel industry outcry started last year when Google bought ITA Software for $700 million, the company from which most everyone gets their flight search information, and Microsoft, Expedia and Kayak began to lobby to stop the deal. Not surprisingly, when Google managed to clear the government antitrust probe and used a Google flight search without ITA's software, the travel sites are still unhappy with the deal. (Google has used ITA Software to create a flight search on its Android and iOS app OnTheFly, which is nothing short of great.)
Google, which has branched into travel, likely saw the buy as a supplementing its search services. But online travel agencies such as Expedia, and more importantly travel search engines such as Kayak, see the competition as deadly.
It's true that Kayak has the most to lose here, because it has the least to offer. At least Orbitz and Expedia are travel agencies that sell airlines, trips and hotel rooms (and make most of their money from hotels,) but Kayak made itself simply an online tool to aggregate travel information. In a face off between aggregators -- a small, narrowly-focused aggregator doesn't stand a chance against Google's almighty algorithm. Is that fair? We suppose it depends on whom you ask.
Google's search engine was started 13 years ago, long before Kayak's travel search started in 2004. So isn't it simply a matter of Kayak having a poor business model from the beginning? Of course, that idea will be batted away for now because the company is desperately trying to launch an IPO before anyone sees that this startup isn't viable in the long term.