Google announced that it will be shutting off developer access to a feed that automates data for airfare search engines, in a move that could affect third-party travel sites. It’s also a sign that Google is becoming increasingly interested in competing with the big names in travel services like Expedia and Orbitz.
The search giant posted a notice on the FAQ page of its site for software developers stating that it would be shutting down its QPX Express API service as of April 10, 2018, and that it would be ending new user registrations for the flight service. It also sent out an email to customers who use this data informing them of the change, according to Hacker News. “If you are actively using the QPX Express API service, you may want to find an alternate solution before April 11, 2018,” the notice read.
Google isn’t providing any information on alternative API services, but some possibilities that software engineers could use include Fareportal, Skyscanner, and Skypicker. Google is also building out its own consumer-facing Flights service, recently adding a cost-saving features, such as flying on a different day, landing in a different airport, or checking to see how airfares vary over time on a graph
Google announced its intention to acquire ITA Software, an MIT- spinoff that powered most online flight searches, in 2010. At the time, the move was scrutinized by the Obama Department of Justice, which was concerned it would allow Google to monopolize travel services. Antitrust officials eventually allowed the $700 million purchase to go through on the condition that the government would be allowed to monitor Google’s behavior, and that the search giant would continue to support its public-facing API program for five years.
But that five years is now up, and Google is rankling critics who distrust its intentions and worry that ultimately the search giant is unaccountable to public regulators.
What isn’t clear, however, is how Google’s decision to shutdown its API service will specifically affect third-party travel sites. According to TechCrunch, customers of QPX include a lot of household names like Bing Travel, Cape Air, CheapTickets, Kayak.com, Orbitz, Alitalia, American, ANA, United Airlines, US Airways, and Virgin Atlantic.
Most likely saw this move coming and prepared for the eventuality. But Google’s decision to shut down third-party access could require these services to build their own databases by going directly to the airlines. Basically, it most likely won’t signal the end of these services, but will certainly require more work on their parts to curate and automate data on flight times and fares.
We’ve reached out to Google for comment and will update this story if we hear back.
Update November 1st, 2:06PM ET: A spokesperson for Kayak and its parent company The Priceline Group declined to comment because “this doesn’t affect Priceline.com or KAYAK.”
Update November 1st, 7:53PM ET: In a statement, a spokesperson for Google cited low usage numbers for shutting down the QPX Express service. “We decided to no longer support the QPX Express API given the low interest among our travel partners,” the spokesperson said. “Instead, we’ll focus on our other enterprise solutions for partners and users.”