Google gets into travel search business with ITA acquisition

Google is buying flight information software provider ITA Software, aiming to sew up the flight information search business the way it dominates general search.

Google’s paying $700 million for the Massachusetts-based company, which produces QPX, a searchable database of flights and prices. Thecompany was founded in 1996 by MIT computer scientists, and now has about 500 staff.

Its customers include major airlines, including American and Continental, as well as online travel companies such as TripAdvisor and Kayak. All will continue to be supported – although Kayak, for example, may be a little worried, as Google’s plans sound rather similar to its own business.

“Google has already come up with new ways to organize hard-to-find information like images, newspaper archives, scholarly papers, books and geographic data,” says Marissa Mayer, vice president of search products and user experience.

“Once we’ve completed our acquisition of ITA, we’ll work on creating new flight search tools that will make it easier for you to search for flights, compare flight options and prices and get you quickly to a site where you can buy your ticket.”

The company’s keen to head off possible grumblings about antitrust issues. “Because Google doesn’t currently compete against ITA Software, the deal will not change existing market shares,” it says.

It’s a bit of a tender spot for the company, which saw its acquisition of AdMob held up for six long months by an investigation from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).