Uber Travel may challenge Expedia, TripCase, everyone — if it’s serious
Uber, the transportation network company, was granted a patent before Christmas for a digital interface that looks a lot like travel metasearch.
The tool would provide travel booking, just as are provided today by the online travel agencies owned by Expedia Inc., Priceline Group, and others, plus trip-itinerary management tools like the ones provided by corporate travel managers and third-parties, like Sabre’s TripCase and Concur’s TripIt.
The patent describes an “Uber Travel” portal that’s similar to what you see at most travel metasearch sites with the multi-modal addition of being able to summon an Uber ride for the so-called “last mile” of a journey.
A recommendation engine would receive data from airline and accommodation systems and, based on the traveler’s preferences, suggest one or more itineraries when the traveler clicked a “Magic!” button. The lodging could be provided from shared-economy (or consumer-sharing) lodging systems (a la Airbnb), not just hotels.
The tool could theoretically compete with TripCase, TripIt, and other itinerary management services as well, as it includes the option to add logistics-managing functions, such as for monitoring flight status and handling rebooking in the event of delays and cancellations.
Simply filing for a patent isn’t proof Uber is committed to this tactic as a business plan, of course. But the fact that every industry player seems intent on taking share from the businesses of its rivals make travel a rare, confusing field of rampant “co-opetition.”
Uber has been eager to make strategic partnerships with other travel companies.
For instance, in September, it began to offer ride request reminders whenever Hilton loyalty program members sign up to receive them on their smartphones by clicking a link on reservation emails.
It’s done a similar partnership with United Airlines.
Sean O’Neill is Editor-in-Chief of Tnooz.
Before joining us, Sean was the future of travel columnist at BBC Travel, senior editor of BudgetTravel.com, and an associate editor at Kiplinger’s. He now lives in New Jersey, after a four-year stint in London. Follow him on Twitter.