At the end of September, Google announced that Book on Google for flights for users outside of the U.S. would be discontinued. According to Skift, the feature will also be discontinued in the U.S. sometime after March 31. It turned out that fewer people were using Google to book their flights, indicating that people preferred to book their flights through online travel companies or directly with airlines.
A similar argument can be made for Google to defeat regulatory efforts to curtail its influence on antitrust grounds if the feature is removed. Travelers can book flights on Google using the “Book on Google” option. However, Google only served as a booking intermediary for the airline or online travel agency, which handled customer care. Airlines weren’t being charged by Google for the feature.
Google said that it would phase away its Book on Google function for flights over the course of the upcoming year. “We initially provided this functionality to make purchasing tickets easier for customers and to increase bookings for our partner airlines and OTAs. However, we’ve discovered through time that customers prefer to make direct reservations through partner websites, and we constantly work to accommodate customer preferences.”
Some analysts believed Book on Google was slowly transitioning into an online travel agency, although that didn’t seem to be the plan all along. Google’s revenue from travel advertising is too high for it to want to compete directly with its largest partners. Additionally, Google has no interest in managing aircraft delays and cancellations or offering assistance to stranded passengers.
In 2015, Google introduced Book on Google to let airlines and online travel firms make reservations at a time when many of their mobile websites lacked sophistication. However, in the intervening period, partners’ mobile capabilities have increased, and Google reported that it observed a diminishing share of flight bookings originating from the Book on Google feature. These forms of aided bookings for partner airlines and hotels have been explored by numerous metasearch companies over the years, but with a few exceptions, like HomeToGo in Germany, this type of functionality has been declining for years.
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