Google's new airfare search section takes off

September 13, 2011 - 6:50 PM

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google Inc.'s search results for airline tickets are finally getting a lift from a key piece of technology that it bought earlier this year.

The Internet search leader's revised approach to airfare queries appeared Tuesday in a newly opened "flights" section of Google.com.

The new look at http://www.google.com/flights arrived with little hoopla. The low-key debut might have reflected Google's desire to avoid attracting too much attention to the service, which has raised fears that the Internet's most powerful company will trample the competition in online travel — one of the biggest markets in electronic commerce.

It's the first time Google has extensively deployed the tools it picked up from its $676 million purchase of leading airline fare tracker ITA Software.

The deal faced fierce opposition from other online travel services that argued Google would be able to combine its dominance of Internet search with ITA Software's technology to gain an unfair advantage.

After a lengthy investigation, the Justice Department approved the acquisition in April. But the department imposed a series of conditions that included an agreement requiring Google to license ITA Software's technology to other companies until 2016.

Google has promised to make it easier and quicker to find the best prices being offered by airlines. The version that debuted Tuesday didn't appear to have anything dramatically different from what other travel search engines have been providing.

Kayak, which was among the travel search engines trying to block the ITA acquisition, says it's ready to answer the challenge.

"We're confident in our ability to compete, and we believe our flight search technology is superior," said Robert Birge, Kayak's chief marketing officer.