Google now offers airlines a CRS platform. Is this a Good Thing?

OK, this I didn’t see coming. Google just built its first airline CRS. Big G has worked with Cape Air to provide a reservation system,

‘That may not look all that different from other airlines’ systems on the surface, but Google says that there’s plenty different going on under the hood, noting that it was built “from scratch using modern, modular, scalable technologies.” That last bit is perhaps the key one, with Google further adding that the system is “built to scale to support airlines of all sizes.”‘ [Emphasis mine]

On many levels, this makes loads of sense both for airlines and for Google. The search giant offers server power and engineering talent on a scale unlike, well, just about anyone. And what better way “…to organize the world’s information and make it universally available” (Google’s stated mission), than get airline information (and, eventually, I would assume, hotel information and car rental information and…) directly from the source.

Further, I can imagine many airline executives (and hotel executives and car rental executives and…) drooling over the notion of letting Google do all the heavy lifting on the tech front. And the idea of the large players in the space (Sabre, Amadeus, IBS, etc.) facing further competition is a good thing. Isn’t it?

Probably.

The one possible downside here is that for airlines (and hotel companies and car rental companies and…), Google represents one of their largest advertising partners, too, with huge market share for search, display and mobile advertising dollars.

Giving Google access to all inventory, rate and passenger data could potentially lower distribution and reservations systems costs for its future customers. But it could also potentially cost a lot more for advertising, too, as Google learns more and more and more about these businesses.

Which is definitely something to watch in the coming months and years.

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Airlines force OTA’s out of Google Flight Search? Anti-competitive, much?

Something remarkable happened at PhoCusWright a couple of weeks ago. According to Travel Weekly,

“When Google’s vice president of travel, Jeremy Wertheimer, stepped on stage at the PhoCusWright conference here two weeks ago, he surprised many in the audience with his explanation as to why Google’s Flight Search results do not include links to online travel agencies.

If they did, Wertheimer said, the airlines would not participate.

“The airlines said, ‘We will not give you content if you provide booking links to OTAs,’” Wertheimer told the audience.”

I’ve written before about FairSearch and what it means for most businesses. And, while I’m not a huge fan of government oversight of individual businesses, nor, frankly, a huge fan of some OTA business practices, this level of coordination among the airlines and Google reeks of anticompetitive behavior. Actually, it just plain reeks, period.

While Google faces increasing competition for search from apps and mobile tools like Siri (see the Roger McNamee video), for better or worse, Google still represents the guide to the Internet for many people. And a guide that deliberately excludes some content providers due to competitive pressure from other content providers is no guide at all. As more details emerge around deals such as these, Google risks not only the wrath of regulators, but also diminished trust from consumers and businesses.

In other words, whether it’s antitrust or declining trust, Google and the airlines are playing a losing game. I’d expect to see FairSearch and others challenge this move in the very near term and the repercussions to continue for some time to come.

Expedia’s expansion plans for offline channels: Expedia opens its first CruiseShipCenter (Expedia CSC) franchise location this month,

TravelTrade has an interview with Paul Brown, president of Expedia North American and Expedia Partner Services Group about Expedia’s CruiseShipCenter franchises specifically, and Expedia’s offline plans in general.