Discussion:
US DOJ approves Google purchase of ITA
(too old to reply)
John R. Levine
2011-04-08 20:29:50 UTC
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The DOJ put a whole bunch of conditions on the sale, mostly that ITA
continue to develop and sell their QPX platform, a firewall between ITA's
commercial side and Google, and a reporting mechanism for complaints.

I'm not sure whether I think it's a good idea. On the one hand, it means
that googlage will provide ever more useful and relevant info. On the
other hand, it cements their search dominance.

http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2011/April/11-at-445.html

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Please consider the environment before reading this e-mail. http://jl.ly
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JF Mezei
2011-04-08 20:41:28 UTC
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Post by John R. Levine
The DOJ put a whole bunch of conditions on the sale, mostly that ITA
continue to develop and sell their QPX platform, a firewall between ITA's
commercial side and Google, and a reporting mechanism for complaints.
Perhaps what the DOJ should have insisted that a Google search reveal
itinerary/pricing solutions from all ITA customers. This way, other
systems based on ITA systems would have the same advantage as Google in
search results.

The big question is wether Mr Google will put "travel agencies" like
expedia or travelocity out of business because a Google search will
reveal the right itineraries/pricing and users can then go to the
airline web site to book it. (remember that ITA doesn't handle
bookings/ticketing).

Note that Expedia recently got an agreement with American airlines to
start to carry AA's inventory again (ther had a spat a few months ago).

Airlines might be extremely happy with this Google deal since they could
then just feed what they want to ITA and then let Google searching bring
customers directly to them, bypassing the travel agency websites.

But if ITA truly remains independent and not fully integrated into Mr
Google's search engine, then it would be just an investment in a
software company without much synergy between the two.
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Miles Bader
2011-04-08 21:59:30 UTC
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Post by JF Mezei
The big question is wether Mr Google will put "travel agencies" like
expedia or travelocity out of business because a Google search will
reveal the right itineraries/pricing and users can then go to the
airline web site to book it. (remember that ITA doesn't handle
bookings/ticketing).
Note that Expedia recently got an agreement with American airlines to
start to carry AA's inventory again (ther had a spat a few months ago).
Airlines might be extremely happy with this Google deal since they could
then just feed what they want to ITA and then let Google searching bring
customers directly to them, bypassing the travel agency websites.
Of course, those "travel agency websites" are just finished / still in
the process of driving traditional travel agencies out of business, so
it's a bit hard to feel much sympathy for them. It's a rapidly changing
market and there's still a lot of room for it to develop; the current
state of it is hardly optimal!

If specialized sites actually bring any value, then even if Google
search can find tickets, these sites will still find a niche. If they
_don't_ actually bring much value, then maybe they won't find a niche,
but on the other hand, as consumers, we're probably better off without
them.

By and large, I've found these sites to be really, REALLY awful; despite
the power of modern technology, booking air tickets using these sites is
often an excruciating chore. Google's involvement will almost certainly
improve things (not least because the current state is so awful).

-Miles
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JF Mezei
2011-04-08 23:25:51 UTC
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Post by Miles Bader
By and large, I've found these sites to be really, REALLY awful; despite
the power of modern technology, booking air tickets using these sites is
often an excruciating chore. Google's involvement will almost certainly
improve things (not least because the current state is so awful).
Is there any information that Mr Google would allow people to make
bookings ?

Right now, matrix.itasoftware.com only allows one to search for
schedules/fares but does not allow bookings.

If Mr Google keeps it that way, then searching will just yield possible
schedule/fares. Buit who will it point to when you click on the link ?
Would it point to the originating airline for booking ?

or will it point to the matrixitasoftware site to get additional details
on the flight ?


When you consider that AMR spun off Sabre/Travelocity in part because it
wanted the later to get contracts from competing airlines, Google might
be doing the opposite and if it starts to allow bookings, then customers
of ITA might not be so happy.

Another consideration: Will airlines such as Air Canada who are coporate
users of ITA's software get preferential listings when someone asks Mr
Google to display flights ?


I recall the early days of GDS where there were rules aboutr
preferential display of flights and wonder if those would be needed for
internet searches now.

In the case of Mr Google, he has a policy of giving preferential
placement of search results for people who pay to advertise on Google.
And I suspect they would like to use the same policy for air travel too.
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Miles Bader
2011-04-08 23:42:47 UTC
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Post by JF Mezei
Is there any information that Mr Google would allow people to make
bookings ?
No idea. We'll see, I guess.

Hopefully what it will mean is that the appropriate information is more
widely available, meaning there's more competition amongst parties who
_will_ make a booking for you.
Post by JF Mezei
In the case of Mr Google, he has a policy of giving preferential
placement of search results for people who pay to advertise on Google.
Google is _vastly_ better than the competition in this respect -- they
clearly separate and mark any kind of paid result, and obviously care
about maintaining users' trust.

Given the low-quality and questionable ethics of the current online
travel sites, and Google's good record with past endeavors, I think
Google's involvement can only improve things.

-Miles
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lies about us.' The world begins lying about us pretty soon afterward.
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Cees Binkhorst
2011-04-09 07:26:13 UTC
Permalink
Post by JF Mezei
Post by Miles Bader
By and large, I've found these sites to be really, REALLY awful; despite
the power of modern technology, booking air tickets using these sites is
often an excruciating chore. Google's involvement will almost certainly
improve things (not least because the current state is so awful).
Is there any information that Mr Google would allow people to make
bookings ?
Right now, matrix.itasoftware.com only allows one to search for
schedules/fares but does not allow bookings.
If Mr Google keeps it that way, then searching will just yield possible
schedule/fares. Buit who will it point to when you click on the link ?
Would it point to the originating airline for booking ?
or will it point to the matrixitasoftware site to get additional details
on the flight ?
When you consider that AMR spun off Sabre/Travelocity in part because it
wanted the later to get contracts from competing airlines, Google might
be doing the opposite and if it starts to allow bookings, then customers
of ITA might not be so happy.
Another consideration: Will airlines such as Air Canada who are coporate
users of ITA's software get preferential listings when someone asks Mr
Google to display flights ?
I recall the early days of GDS where there were rules aboutr
preferential display of flights and wonder if those would be needed for
internet searches now.
In the case of Mr Google, he has a policy of giving preferential
placement of search results for people who pay to advertise on Google.
And I suspect they would like to use the same policy for air travel too.
http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/04/ita-software-acquisition-cleared-for.html
ITA Software acquisition cleared for takeoff
4/08/2011 09:42:00 AM
How cool would it be if you could type "flights to somewhere sunny for
under $500 in May" into Google and get not just a set of links but also
flight times, fares and a link to sites where you can actually buy
tickets quickly and easily? Well that's exactly why we announced our
intention to buy ITA Software, a Cambridge, Mass.-based company that
specializes in organizing airline data last July—and we're excited that
the U.S. Department of Justice today approved our acquisition.

It’s important to us that ITA continue with business as usual, providing
great service to its business partners. We indicated last July that we
would honor ITA’s existing contracts. Today we’ve formally committed to
let ITA’s customers extend their contracts into 2016. We've also agreed
to let both current and new customers license ITA’s QPX software on
“fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms” into 2016—along with
related commitments aimed at making ITA’s technology available to other
travel sites.

We’re moving to close this acquisition as soon as possible, and then
we’ll start the important work of bringing our teams and products
together. We’re confident that by combining ITA’s expertise with
Google’s technology we’ll be able to develop exciting new flight search
tools for all our users. Up, up and away!

Posted by Jeff Huber, Senior Vice President, Commerce and Local
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JF Mezei
2011-04-09 10:19:32 UTC
Permalink
Post by Cees Binkhorst
It’s important to us that ITA continue with business as usual, providing
great service to its business partners. We indicated last July that we
would honor ITA’s existing contracts.
That does not augur well. "honour *existing* contracts" is corporate
speak for "yeah, we'll support the installed base, but we won't be
seeking to grow this business because we want out of it".
Post by Cees Binkhorst
Today we’ve formally committed to
let ITA’s customers extend their contracts into 2016.
This is a sign that Google intends to move out of such commitments by
2016. Otherwise, they would have had text such as "we look forwards to a
rewarding and long term relationship with ITA's existing and new
customers because we see a bright and long term future for ITA's current
and new products". Or they would be talking about long term growth
opportunities.
Post by Cees Binkhorst
We've also agreed
to let both current and new customers license ITA’s QPX software on
“fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms” into 2016—along with
related commitments aimed at making ITA’s technology available to other
travel sites.
again, the 2016 time. If the DOJ had to specify the commitment to QPX,
it is because Google didn't originally want to commit to it. After 2016,
Google may finally get out of the business it didn't want in the first
place.



I've seen such language with the Compaq purchase of Digital and then
HP's purchase of Compaq. This is pretty straighforward speak for "we'll
support you for some time, but this isn't a core product and you should
be seeking to move to another platform by 2016.


I suspect that after reading such text, CEOs from airlines such as Air
Canada that rely on ITA software products will be making a phone call to
Page/Brin to get the real story from Google.


What is possible is that Google might spin off ITA after it got the
search engine connection done, and the spun off company woukld then
handle the software for airlines and GDS/travel agencies.
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Roland Perry
2011-04-10 07:26:24 UTC
Permalink
Post by Miles Bader
By and large, I've found these sites to be really, REALLY awful; despite
the power of modern technology, booking air tickets using these sites is
often an excruciating chore.
I find Expedia to be useful because it's just one user interface, not a
different one for every airline; and even if their price isn't right you
can at least see who flies the routes.

But Expedia also has its faults, I was trying to book a ticket on Friday
and the price went up 10% in the few minutes between the quote and the
re-quote they decided was necessary.
Post by Miles Bader
Google's involvement will almost certainly improve things (not least
because the current state is so awful).
What all these sites (airline and 3rd party) need is better information
on the booking conditions for each of the tickets shown. What's the cost
of changing itinerary, at what percentage will your frequent flyer miles
be paid, etc. [My Friday flight, eventually booked direct with an
airline, was $100 and 50%, for example, but some airlines are extremely
opaque about such details].
--
Roland Perry
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JF Mezei
2011-04-10 08:30:52 UTC
Permalink
Post by Roland Perry
What all these sites (airline and 3rd party) need is better information
on the booking conditions for each of the tickets shown. What's the cost
of changing itinerary, at what percentage will your frequent flyer miles
be paid, etc. [My Friday flight, eventually booked direct with an
airline, was $100 and 50%, for example, but some airlines are extremely
opaque about such details].
When Sabre discontinued eaasySabre, one reason quoted was that
travelocity was much simpler and could cater to a much wider audience.

Lets face it, not everyone understands the concept of a booking class
and fare code, and fare rules.


I have found matrix.itasoftware.com to provide me with better access to
what I need. But still not close to easysabre where you could search by
fare or by schedule.

Searching by fares would let you first choose the fare you needed (for
instance something allowing open jaw, and from that look at availability
for the required booking class).

What I do not like of the dumbed down web sites is that they tend to
only list the lwest fare for your itinerary.

What 'd want is to have all fares listed for an airline. This way, if I
want to book in advance, but know the odds of needing a change are high,
I can choose to book a higher fare that makes rebooking possible. With
most airline or biiking engines, you can't do that.

The problem is that while booking engines have dumbed this down quite a
bit for the average Joe, the second you need more information, you are
without tools to really get the information like we used to be able to
get in the 1990s with eaasy Sabre.

I guess this is why some travel sites have "corporate" services where,
for a fee, they likely give you access to what eaasySabre used to give us.
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Roland Perry
2011-04-10 11:26:02 UTC
Permalink
Post by JF Mezei
When Sabre discontinued eaasySabre, one reason quoted was that
travelocity was much simpler and could cater to a much wider audience.
Lets face it, not everyone understands the concept of a booking class
and fare code, and fare rules.
Oh yes. The booking codes are another piece of deliberate obscurity [I
got "S" class, which code-lookup sites reveal to be "Discounted coach
with lots of restrictions", so not much help really].

Many airlines don't even tell you the code up front, let alone what the
transfer/ cancellation charges are (or whether it's even possible).
Post by JF Mezei
What I do not like of the dumbed down web sites is that they tend to
only list the lwest fare for your itinerary.
Some do ask at the beginning if you want a refundable one or not.
Post by JF Mezei
What 'd want is to have all fares listed for an airline. This way, if I
want to book in advance, but know the odds of needing a change are high,
I can choose to book a higher fare that makes rebooking possible. With
most airline or biiking engines, you can't do that.
The flight I booked had three tickets available at different prices with
different restrictions, so perhaps better than average.
--
Roland Perry
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John Levine
2011-04-10 13:56:52 UTC
Permalink
Post by Roland Perry
What all these sites (airline and 3rd party) need is better information
on the booking conditions for each of the tickets shown. What's the cost
of changing itinerary, at what percentage will your frequent flyer miles
be paid, etc.
ITA provides all that, but the sites that use their software don't all
display it very well if at all. Look at the demo version of their
search engine at www.itasoftware.com to see what it really does.

It's a famous scandal in the airline biz that the airlines have turned
off some of the search features, notably splitting fares (A-B,B-C
rather than A-B-C) because they don't want to sell cheaper tickets.

R's,
John
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JF Mezei
2011-04-10 20:09:11 UTC
Permalink
Post by John Levine
It's a famous scandal in the airline biz that the airlines have turned
off some of the search features, notably splitting fares (A-B,B-C
rather than A-B-C) because they don't want to sell cheaper tickets.
Is this done on purpose ? I was under the impression that this was done
to keep the interface simple enough for john Q public to use as well as
keeping the software simple enough for their programmers.

The Air Canada web site only lists the "simple" airfares, the 3 or 4
different levels of Tango/Latitude. But they still publish more
airfares to allow for combinability with other airlines and stuff travel
agents know how to do. For instance, they they publish Y class fares
even though their web site doesn't show them.



Even eaasySabre had problems with some fare constructions. The
difference is that you could still book the itinerary with each segment
in the right booking class, and when you had AA or a travel agent issue
the ticket, they could manually price it.

You could do this because you could see all fares, and choose the one
whose fare rules allowed your itinerary.

With web interfaces, you cannot say "book AC791 for May 1 in V class".
JF Mezei
2011-04-10 20:09:52 UTC
Permalink
Post by John Levine
It's a famous scandal in the airline biz that the airlines have turned
off some of the search features, notably splitting fares (A-B,B-C
rather than A-B-C) because they don't want to sell cheaper tickets.
Is this done on purpose ? I was under the impression that this was done
to keep the interface simple enough for john Q public to use as well as
keeping the software simple enough for their programmers.

The Air Canada web site only lists the "simple" airfares, the 3 or 4
different levels of Tango/Latitude. But they still publish more
airfares to allow for combinability with other airlines and stuff travel
agents know how to do. For instance, they they publish Y class fares
even though their web site doesn't show them.



Even eaasySabre had problems with some fare constructions. The
difference is that you could still book the itinerary with each segment
in the right booking class, and when you had AA or a travel agent issue
the ticket, they could manually price it.

You could do this because you could see all fares, and choose the one
whose fare rules allowed your itinerary.

With web interfaces, you cannot say "book AC791 for May 1 in V class".
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John Levine
2011-04-10 20:33:47 UTC
Permalink
Post by JF Mezei
Post by John Levine
It's a famous scandal in the airline biz that the airlines have turned
off some of the search features, notably splitting fares (A-B,B-C
rather than A-B-C) because they don't want to sell cheaper tickets.
Is this done on purpose ? I was under the impression that this was done
to keep the interface simple enough for john Q public to use as well as
keeping the software simple enough for their programmers.
It wouldn't make the interface any more complex, it would just show
cheaper fares.

R's,
John
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Roland Perry
2011-04-11 09:00:20 UTC
Permalink
Post by John Levine
Post by JF Mezei
Post by John Levine
It's a famous scandal in the airline biz that the airlines have turned
off some of the search features, notably splitting fares (A-B,B-C
rather than A-B-C) because they don't want to sell cheaper tickets.
Is this done on purpose ? I was under the impression that this was done
to keep the interface simple enough for john Q public to use as well as
keeping the software simple enough for their programmers.
It wouldn't make the interface any more complex, it would just show
cheaper fares.
Would the split fare still have a guaranteed connection, or is that
something the customer will have to make a value judgement about?

The trip I mentioned the other day might have involved split fares, on
account of what I might call "missing codeshares" - I don't know what
the real name is.

eg Although I can book from EWR to Europe with Lufthansa (codesharing a
Continental flight) I can't book ATL-EWR with Lufthansa as they don't
have a codeshare with CO on that leg. Would the connection at EWR be
guaranteed if I split the ticketing between CO and LH?
--
Roland Perry
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John Levine
2011-04-11 16:24:07 UTC
Permalink
Post by Roland Perry
Post by John Levine
It wouldn't make the interface any more complex, it would just show
cheaper fares.
Would the split fare still have a guaranteed connection, or is that
something the customer will have to make a value judgement about?
It's still one ticket, just with two fares combined end to end rather
than a more expensive through fare. It's the sort of thing that a
competent travel agent knows how to do by hand. Ed Hasbrouck has
commented on it in his blog.
Post by Roland Perry
eg Although I can book from EWR to Europe with Lufthansa (codesharing a
Continental flight) I can't book ATL-EWR with Lufthansa as they don't
have a codeshare with CO on that leg. Would the connection at EWR be
guaranteed if I split the ticketing between CO and LH?
So long as it's on the same ticket and the connection time is legal,
it should be. Combining fares end-to-end is not at all exotic.

R's,
John
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