This month, Google will “no longer charge partners for referral links on Google Flights.” Because of this, the company is going to remove the “ad” and “sponsored” labels from Google Flights and the flights unit in Google search results.
A Google spokesperson said that flight search results are and will continue to be ranked on the basis of price and convenience. Google said that compensation from airline and travel partners has historically not impacted rankings.
The “ads” and “sponsored” links were required due to Google receiving booking referral fees from some airline partners. If the company failed being transparent, this would have gone against FTC disclosure guidelines.
Two examples found below of the current ad labeling in Google search results and in Google Flights. These will be going away soon.
Google acquired travel reservations platform ITA Software for roughly $700 million about a decade ago, and at that time, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said that the company wanted to integrate the ITA software and data to create a new and more improved travel search experience.
Now, after a lot of experimentation and product iterations, Google has done its best at delivering this promise with richer hotel and flight search results and booking experiences. Google isn’t providing data about travel usage or bookings, but a spokesperson said that the company is “happy with user engagement on Google Flights.”
This is having a big impact on other online travel agencies like Expedia who views Google as its biggest competitor. According to a report from Bloomberg, TripAdvisor is “cutting hundreds of jobs” in response to this competition.