Google To Launch Flight Search in India? OTAs Cry Scroogled!

It looks like Google, which recently launched product listing Ads in India, is going after air travelers next with the impending launch of their ‘Flight Search’.

According to a news report, the search giant will soon introduce Flight Search, a service which will let users book flights directly from Google without going to a travel website.

Flight Search, first launched in the US and then in parts of Europe, lets users compare fares offered by airlines and book tickets directly from airline websites. This could have an impact on flight aggregators such as Makemytrip, Yatra, Cleartrip and others.

In response, the aggregators are considering steps to protect their interests, including a possible complaint to the Competition Commission of India, (source). They claim discrimination by Google when it comes to search results for queries relating to online travel.

Online travel aggregators have other things to worry about as well. Travel agents, including online travel agents such as Cleartrip or Yatra and MakemyTrip, were in for a rude shock as the Supreme Court has banned collection of transaction fee on airline tickets in January this year. The court order has a direct impact on the margins of online players.

As we’d written earlier, big OTAs are facing growth challenges and smaller players are facing thinner margins.  (Read: What’s NextBigWhat for Indian OTAs? Consolidation, we say)

Google Flight Search

Previously Google was sued by other companies in India for unfair practices by monopolising on their dominance over the internet. Last year Bharatmatrimony had moved to Competition Commission of India, citing discriminatory trade practices related to its AdWords program by Google.

In Europe, Google’s Flight Search is  already in trouble with OTA such as Expedia and TripAdvisor filling antitrust complaints against the company with the European Commission for promoting rival services and disrupting fair competition in the online travel space.

Google Scroogling with Organic Search?

Google has been progressively trying to get people to spend more time on Google services. That’s natural for any web company. But some practices might be seen as anti competitive because of its dominant position as a search engine. Whatever it is, Google is playing a much bigger game than everybody else. A few examples will show you that the search giant wants to take it all.

1. Word SearchesGoogle Word Meaning

Say you search for the meaning of liberation, earlier, Google would show you a bunch of search results from dictionary sites. But now? It just gives you the result. As users, we aren’t complaining because it saves us the hassle of going to another site. But all those dictionary sites? Well, guess they need to find something better to do now.

2. People/ Encyclopedia like searchesGoogle Wikipedia Research

This is one of the most common type of searches online. Say you are looking for Benjamin Franklin or Mahatma Gandhi. Google gives it to you again. Just like in the case of word search.  All those encyclopedia sites? Well, guess they’ll have to find something else to do now. Of course it gives you only a brief on what you are searching (and it’s powered by wikipedia), our guess is that it takes away a lot of traffic which would have otherwise gone to those sites.

3. Product SearchesGoogle Product Listing Ad

Say you are looking for a phone? Or a camera? The recent with the launch of product listing Ad in India, users don’t have to visit price comparison sites to view the prices listed by various online retailers as Google lists them for you besides the search result. The effect on price comparison sites are yet to show.

The company which  started with wanting users to spend as little time as possible on the search page, now doesn’t seem to want them anywhere else.

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