Google Facts about Google’s acquisition of ITA Software ITA

What people are saying

Travel industry

Jeffrey Boyd, President and CEO, Priceline
“[Boyd said] if Google buys ITA Software and leverages the technology to deliver better-qualified customers to Priceline and other online travel agencies, then Google’s foray into vertical, travel search would represent an opportunity for Priceline.” (Tnooz)

Everbread (flight search competitor)
“We see the Google-ITA Software deal as very good for the industry… If there is an industry that needs shaking up, it is definitely travel. What is good about the Google-ITA Software relationship is that it will encourage the industry to focus much more on improving technology and traveler experience as the key to market share growth, as opposed to backroom dealing, exclusive contracts, and closed-channel strategies that have been dominant for so long.” (Tnooz)

Barney Harford, President and CEO, Orbitz
“Orbitz is neutral [on the deal]. Orbitz has a good relationship with Google and ITA. We’ve worked with ITA since 2001, and we’ve been integral to their development. Likewise, ITA is integral to Orbitz today. QPX is a great search product, and it offers huge value to our customers. […] It makes sense that if you want to take ITA’s role, you have to provide something to people like us and Kayak, that you provide a compelling service. Otherwise, we’ll use someone else. If you don’t provide a compelling service, we’ll go somewhere else. There are other solutions. Sabre, Amadeus.” (Remarks at PhocusWright Conference, 11/17/10)

Jeff Clarke, CEO, Travelport
“The pending Google purchase of ITA Software is ‘a good thing,’ Clarke says, as Google has publicly stated its intent is to improve search results for online travel agencies and suppliers and vows not to get involved with transaction fulfillment. Clarke said Travelport will continue to compete with Google-ITA and noted that Travelport just released revision 4 of e-Pricing, a software upgrade that the company says is geared to provide ‘faster search, lower fares and larger result sets.’” (Tnooz, 8/5/10)

Robert McDowell, Managing Director of Distribution and eCommerce, United Airlines
“I think it’s an open space. Clearly [Google’s] plans are not known, but metasearch is a wide area of opportunity. I don’t think they pose a credible threat to the airlines. The competition is obviously the OTAs and the Kayaks and the metasearches, and I think that space is open.” (Remarks at PhocusWright Conference, 11/17/10)

Cory Garner, Director of Distribution Strategy, American Airlines
“I think there are ways that [flight] search can be improved… So it’s great to have a perspective from outside the travel industry to come in and meddle around a bit. I think that’s where the opportunity is. […] We’re on the verge of a brand new era in airline marketing, where we’re going to be able to personalize offers based on customer needs, and a company like Google is certainly poised to deliver on that.” (Remarks at PhocusWright Conference, 11/17/10)

Virgin Atlantic
“Virgin Atlantic Airways said… that Google’s pledge to honor all existing agreements meant it foresaw no impact from the ownership change.” (Dow Jones)

Joseph Sprague, VP of Marketing, Alaska Airlines
“I think there is some intrigue that might even further strengthen ITA in terms of some of their research and development activities that could benefit us.” (Tnooz)

Arthur Frommer, Founder, Frommer’s Travel Guide
“… The existence of so many competing airfare search engines convinces me that the field will remain competitive even after Google enters it. The current situation [in airfare search] is untenable. It needs Google to straighten things out.” (Toronto Star)

Glenn Gruber, AVP Travel Technologies, Ness Technologies
“Most telling to me is the [Google’s] promise not to ‘lock out’ competitors. That doesn’t mean they won’t compete with the current clients, just not shut them down.” (Tnooz)


About FairSearch.org’s claims

Henry Harteveldt, Travel Industry Analyst, Forrester
“In the end, Google has made a legitimate and fair claim to buy ITA Software and I think there’s a little bit of sour grapes on the part of some of the companies that are not the companies buying ITA […] There’s a little bit of disingenuous behavior going on here. […] It’s important to note that there are other viable competitors out there, in the marketplace today including start-up and established players.” (CNBC, 11/2/10)

The Economist
“The industry’s worries may be overblown. Not only is Google thought to be mostly interested in ITA’s general data-sifting technologies, it will also be wary of disrupting its good relationships with the travel portals: A leaked memo revealed in September that Expedia is one of Google’s biggest clients when it comes to advertising spending, so it might think twice about alienating it.” (CNBC, 11/9/10)

Arthur Frommer, Founder, Frommer’s Travel Guide
“I can’t myself find anything in the proposed acquisition that’s at odds with fair competition… Is additional competition needed in the airfare search industry? My own response would be a definite Yes… FairSearch.org makes the argument, among others, that Google’s massive popularity as a general search engine will attract an undeserved number of people seeking airfares. But in what way is popularity a violation of antitrust policies? If the many loyal users of Google also use its airfare search engine, so what? If the many loyal users of Microsoft’s Bing also use its airfare search engine, so what?” (Blog, 11/5/10)

Peter Gallagher, Columnist, Dow Jones
“… A competitive threat is not the same thing as an antitrust violation… It is difficult to make out FairSearch’s precise antitrust arguments. There are alternatives to ITA’s software: both the GDSs but also upstarts such as the U.K.’s Everbread Ltd., which has relationships with 60 low-cost carriers, and Vayant Travel Technologies LLC of New York. It isn’t clear, therefore, that competition would be reduced even if Googled didn’t honor ITA’s contracts with other travel companies (as it has promised to do) or renew them.” (11/10/10)

Josh Wright, Antitrust Professor, George Mason Law School
“… Pointing to Google’s market share and adding competitor complaints to the mix does not suggest or create any inference of competitive harm. As Expedia’s lawyer knows quite well, the distinction between harm to rivals coupled with speculative theories about harm to competition on the one hand and hard evidence of the latter on the other is one that lies at the center of antitrust jurisprudence. The more credible signal of competitive harm is systematic evidence that customers, not competitors, don’t like the deal… my standing prior is that, without more, competitor complaints are a negative signal about the underlying merits of an antitrust claim.” (Truth On the Market, 11/01/10)

Geoff Manne, Lecturer, Lewis and Clark Law School
“ITA does not provide nor own the underlying data (this comes from the airlines themselves) but only its proprietary analysis and processing of the raw data. Thus, it would be impossible for Google to foreclose access to the underlying data (even if it wanted to) and its merger could only affect access to ITA’s proprietary processing of that data—processing that other companies can and do undertake.” (House Judiciary prepared testimony, 9/16/10)


Industry analysts

Henry Harteveldt, Travel Industry Analyst, Forrester
“The two firms don’t overlap… By integrating ITA’s QPX airfare search into its search engine, Google will be able to provide a user with more specific, actionable information, such as airlines, schedules, fares — and the Websites that sell the tickets. And, as impressive as Google’s technology prowess may be, airfare and other travel price searches aren’t easy to do — Google described the process as ‘daunting,’ and they’re right. So it’s smarter for Google to buy than to build.” (Forrester Blog)

Wade Roush, Xconomy
“Antitrust decisions are about competition and protecting consumers, and it’s difficult to see how a Google-ITA combination would actually make it harder for consumers to find low-priced fares. So the FairSearch coalition may have a difficult time ahead of it in Washington, DC.” (Xconomy, 10/26)

David Whitley, Freelance Travel Journalist
“Was there a law passed that says everyone must go through Google? I thought not. I would respectfully suggest to the members of [the FairSearch.org] consortium that their efforts may be better concentrated on ensuring that their own products consistently deliver the best results.” (Tnooz, 10/26)

Norm Rose, Travel Tech Consulting
“Google has done some experimenting by including hotels and prices on Google Maps, and while it’s unknown how ITA information would be displayed, I think it will be innovative… For instance, you might enter the amount of money you have to spend, and then ask where can I go this weekend?” (PC Mag)

Jeetil Patel, Analyst, Deutsche Bank
“[The acquisition of] ITA Software should improve the consumer travel experience by matching a database of travel info. with one of the leading organizers of information on the Web.” (Research Note, 7/2/10)

Carroll Rheem, Director of Research, PhocusWright Research
“At the face of it, there is little to be so worked up about as the fundamental online distribution landscape and the ongoing tug-of-war between airlines and OTAs will continue unabated - the move does not signal a play for ticket transactions. But, it does show a serious commitment to making the Google search experience fundamentally better for air travelers - which today is clearly lacking.” (Research Notes, 7/2/10)

Molly McHugh, Digital Trends
“Still, no matter how much or how strong the opposition, it’s likely the deal will go through… the [FTC] ruled that while [Google’s acquisition of AdMob] did present a host of antitrust issues, it would not limit market competition, and it’s safe to say there will be a similar conclusion for Google’s latest venture.” (Digital Trends, 10/26)

Lorraine Sileo, Vice President, PhoCusWright Research
“I can see Google using ITA to provide more relevancy to the traveler and highly qualified leads and referrals to travel sites, but not becoming a full service [online travel agency]. It brings Google closer to the transaction, but fulfillment remains the purview of OTAs.” (PhoCusWright, 4/23/10)

Joe Buhler, Senior Analyst, PhoCusWright Research
“The more relevant Google can make the search, the more useful Google will be as a tool for planning trips,” he said. “Travel search is a huge vertical, and you can assume that Google has some interesting plans or else they wouldn’t go after it.” (PC Mag)


Antitrust experts

Geoff Manne, Lecturer, Lewis and Clark Law School
“Google’s acquisition of ITA is a straightforward vertical merger, where one company has decided to purchase an input into its business outright rather than simply contract with it. The economic literature is overflowing with explanations for this sort of conduct… Few areas of economic research are as well-supported empirically and as unanimous in their conclusions—in this case, that there are sound and well-supported institutional justifications for vertical integration rooted in the avoidance of the costs of contracting between companies rather than within the same entity.” (House Judiciary prepared testimony, 9/16/10)

Andrew Gavil, Antitrust Professor, Howard Law School
“Gavil… said it’s unlikely the ITA acquisition will face ‘significant antitrust concerns.’ The purchase is an extension of Google’s business and not an example of one competitor buying another, a circumstance that would draw scrutiny from authorities.” (Bloomberg)

Keith Hylton, Antitrust Professor, Boston University Law School
“The purpose of the law is not to protect competitors. If consumers come out ahead, the [Justice] Department shouldn’t block the merger.” (Boston Globe, 10/27)

eWeek
“Some experts believe the deal should ultimately pass muster because it represents the search engine’s expansion into a new search vertical and the company has already promised to support ITA’s existing customer agreements.” (eWeek)

Richard Brosnick, Antitrust Attorney, Butzel Long
“I would be surprised if this transaction were blocked.” (Reuters)

The Economist
“Could ITA be another example of a deal in which both Google’s shareholders and consumers come out as winners? Quite possibly, which is why it is likely to get a green light from anti-trust watchdogs in America, where ITA has most of its business.” (The Economist)

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