Google to Shut off Airfare Data for Some Travel Search Engines

Nov 2, 2017

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As Google Flights has become more and more prominent, the tech giant will continue to concentrate its power on travel data after announcing that it will be shutting off its QPX Express API in April 2018. QPX is an airfare search data feed that allows travel sites to access information on airfare and was created when Google acquired ITA Software. Google used ITA to create Google Flights, a more user-friendly version of the ITA Matrix.

Now this might seem like a mouthful, but it’s important for two reasons. First, it means that Google is more interested in competing with the big travel sites like Orbitz and Expedia. And second, many smaller third-party travel search engines will have to find a new way to access airfare data. Ultimately, as users expressed on Twitter, this could be a death blow to smaller travel startups who rely on the API.

When Google purchased ITA in 2010, the US Justice Department closely examined the deal for antitrust issues. Ultimately the government approved the deal, but with the caveat that Google would have to allow developers to access the data for at least five years.

Some of TPG’s favorite websites like The Flight Deal use ITA to verify deals  — meaning there may be some difficulty in doing this in the future.

A Google spokesperson said the reason for the shutdown was “the low interest among our travel partners,” although according to TechCrunch the company had some pretty massive customers like Kayak, Orbitz, American Airlines and United. The Verge reported that a Kayak spokesperson declined to comment because “this doesn’t affect or KAYAK.”

A replacement service for QPX could be provided by Fareportal, Skyscanner or QPX Enterpise (a version for larger businesses), says TechCrunch. That, or companies may have to build their own databases.

Google will also be shutting down ITA’s mobile app OnTheFly in December, although it’s unclear if ITA Matrix will be switched off as well.

We’ve reached out to Google for clarification about the status of ITA Matrix but haven’t heard back at the time of publishing this article.

Featured image by Stephane Noiret/Getty.

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