Google-ITA Software deal: Who is missing from the FairSearch plot?
Kayak and Expedia were the frontmen for the campaign, arguing that Google would have the incentive to degrade ITA’s airline pricing and shopping product for online travel companies if the deal goes through.
But while the latest move will have certainly thrown a new light on the depth of ill-feeling by the likes of Expedia, Kayak, Sabre Holdings and Farelogix over the proposed Google-ITA Software acquisition, there are plenty of others remaining in the market.
And, of course, quite a few of these are existing ITA customers, seemingly in a similar situation to Kayak.
When asked yesterday about the range of companies on the FairSearch portfolio, Brent Thompson, Expedia’s vice president of government affairs, cautioned that one shouldn’t read too much into the size of the supporter list, given that some companies fear Google’s clout.
“I think there is a certain amount of circumspection that companies have about coming forward. All of these companies rely heavily on Google and I think there is some fear of potential retaliation.
“I think we are comfortable that there is a very high level of concern across this industry and that you shouldn’t read much into which companies have come forward at this time.”
Thompson also claims there is “deep concern” in the airline community.
So who is missing from the list and what are they saying about FairSearch? When investigating yesterday, the answer was “quite a few” and “very little”, unsurprisingly.
What about Travelport – would it join its GDS rival Sabre Holdings and publicly oppose the acquisition?
After initially giving a “no comment”, Travelport has now released a statement:
“We are committed to ensuring that competition in this area remains vigorous and that consumers are provided complete transparency in travel search in an unbiased manner from all points of travel sale whether from online travel agents, travel supply distributors and others sources of travel.
“We are monitoring the regulatory review process for this transaction and providing input to the regulators when asked to ensure that, no matter the outcome, a fair and level playing field remains.”
Another ITA customer, Farecompare, says it is digesting the latest move but has no comment to make.
A common theme occurring.
From Bing, almost certainly in the same position as Kayak, perhaps with even more to be concerned about given its rivalry with Google on the wider search front.
“Microsoft is not a member of this coalition, but as an ITA customer, we continue to monitor developments regarding the regulatory review of Google’s proposed acquisition of ITA.”
The most telling and substantive comment so far has come from Orbitz, itself an ITA customer and potentially facing the same challenges in the OTA space as Expedia.
An official says:
“In short, we are not a member of this coalition. We have publicly stated three points on this deal.
“1. We have good working relationships with both Google and ITA and are happy they intend to honor their contracts.
“2. We think this deal needs to go through a robust review by DoJ to protect consumers and competition and we’ve been public about participating with DoJ in this review.
“3. Most important, it is important to note that there are ITA alternatives in the marketplace. Travelport’s ePricing solution – for instance – is good technology and we’ve been pleased with the investments they made in that technology, which we use in Europe for some of our ebookers sites.
“All said, we continue to evaluate the proposed deal, prudently address any concerns we might have and will monitor the activity of Expedia and Kayak’s FairSearch.org initiative.”
Clearly there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes, as Thompson hints at.
Amadeus, the final GDS in the trio, confirms it has been approached to join FairSearch but “have not yet taken the decision”.
Although this tweet from a sales director in Madrid might indicate what the company is really thinking…
UPDATE: Travelport issued a statement (inserted above).
UPDATE: The tweet from the Amadeus official was deleted on 27 October, shortly after this article was published.
Kevin May is a senior editor and one of the co-founders at Tnooz. He was previously editor of UK-based magazine Travolution and web editor of Media Week UK from 2003 to 2005.
He has worked in regional newspapers (Essex Enquirer) and started his career in journalism at the Police Gazette at New Scotland Yard in London. He has a degree in criminology, a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism and will be publishing his first book - a biography about electronic band, Depeche Mode - soon.