Travel firms urge Congress to oppose Google-ITA deal
Competition would suffer, coalition says
A group of online travel companies opposing
The group, formed last month, calls itself FairSearch.org and includes Kayak.com, a Norwalk, Conn. travel website that was backed by Boston venture capitalists; Expedia Inc., which runs TripAdvisor in Newton; Hotwire; and others.
The letter invokes the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday travel crush as prime time for consumers — and constituents — needing a robust marketplace of flights and competitive fares.
“This competition is now threatened by Google’s proposed acquisition of ITA Software, the leading source of flight search technology for online travel companies,’’ the letter said.
In July, Google agreed to buy ITA, thwarting efforts of a coalition of travel websites to submit a competing bid that would have kept ITA an independent utility that licenses its software to many companies.
FairSearch.org complains in its letter that Google already has more than 70 percent of the market for general online searches and search advertising, yet wants to own ITA rather than license its software. The group claims that acquiring ITA would allow Google to dominate the online travel marketplace.
Google has said that it would honor existing ITA agreements with travel websites.
In a statement yesterday, Adam Kovacevich, a spokesman for Google, said: “When someone does a Google search for ‘flights from Boston to Miami,’ we’d like to provide not just 10 blue links but exact flight times and prices as well. ITA will help us do that, while sending more traffic to airline and online travel websites where consumers can buy tickets.’’
Kovacevich also said: “So far, the only critics of this deal are competitors, not consumers, and the laws aren’t intended to protect companies from competition.’’
The Justice Department is looking into whether the deal violates antitrust laws.
FairSearch.org’s letter, which also went to staffers on the Judiciary, Commerce, and Technology committees, said: “For the sake of travel consumers in your state, we encourage you to protect innovation and consumer choice in online travel by calling on the Justice Department to challenge this acquisition.’’
Other members of the coalition include Sabre Holdings, which runs Travelocity.com, and Farelogix Inc.
Beth Healy can be reached at email@example.com.