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Google to revamp its flight search engine, Ryanair's CEO says

Google to revamp its flight search engine, Ryanair's CEO says

The service will blow competing comparison sites out of the water, he said

Google will add prices for Ryanair to its flight search engine, the CEO of the discount airline said in an interview published Sunday.

Flight Search -- Google's ticket comparison website -- will "blow comparison sites like Skyscanner out of the water", said Ryanair's CEO Michael O'Leary in an interview with the Irish Independent. His statements were confirmed by a Ryanair spokeswoman on Monday.

"Google, being Google, want to show all of the prices from all of the airlines on display. They don't want to charge us, they make all of their money out of advertising," explained O'Leary told the newspaper. "They don't want to have a limited or biased search. They want to be able to say they've screened all of these airlines on all of the routes," he added.

According to O'Leary, Google wants to provide route selections as well as cheapest prices of all the airlines. Whoever selects a trip will be able to click on the fares to be led to an airline's website to purchase tickets, he said. Ryanair's data will be added to Google's database in March.

The addition of Ryanair, once a fierce opponent of price comparison sites, to Flight Search will absolutely benefit Google, said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst at Hudson Crossing, in an email.

"Budget airlines like Ryanair account for more than half the airline capacity in Europe. The more budget airlines in Google Flight Search, the greater its potential appeal and utility to travellers," he said. Flight Search however accounts for a relatively small amount of Google's business, he added.

"Google's competitors, such as Skyscanner, Kayak, and Hipmunk, offer hotels and other travel services, which enable them to offer a great degree of convenience and value to their users," he wrote. "Not having Ryanair won't help them, but it's not a fatal product gap," he said, adding that he won't rule out Ryanair expanding its participation with other metasearch sites, especially if they can provide more and better reach than Google.

Modes of distribution of tickets will change massively in Europe, with mobile revenues to increase vastly, predicted O'Leary. "In five years' time, everyone on Ryanair will be paying on their mobile," he said in the interview.

Google however is not about to launch a product, despite O'Leary's characterization of the company as working on a revamp of Flight Search, according to a source familiar with the matter. It is currently looking into adding Ryanair to its existing flight search engine, the source added.

"We have nothing new to announce at this stage," a Google spokesman said in an emailed statement. "We already have relationships with a number of airlines across the world but are always looking to improve the results by signing deals with more," he added.

Flight Search was launched in 2011 and was brought to the U.K. in 2013. Google based it on technology from ITA Software, which it bought for $700 million. Flight Search currently enables people to compare the best flight times and prices from one site.

Companies that offer similar services like TripAdvisor and Expedia, however have said that Google's flight search service excluded any links to online travel agencies. Therefore, they filed an antitrust complaint against the service with European Commission in 2012.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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