Microsoft joins opposition to Google-ITA deal

Microsoft has joined a lobbying coalition opposing Google's proposed acquisition of the travel search firm ITA Software on the grounds the deal would give Google unfair advantages in the online travel market.

Microsoft, Foundem and ZUJI announced Monday they have joined the FairSearch.org coalition, which includes travel firms such as Expedia, Travelocity and KAYAK. The group argues Google's $700 million acquisition of ITA could lead to fewer travel choices online, less innovation and higher prices for consumers.

"Today’s announcement and the coalition’s new international members signal the growing concern around the world about the broader threat the Google-ITA deal poses to travel consumers," the group said in a statement.

Many of the firms, including Microsoft's Bing search engine, rely on ITA's software to power their airfare search applications and fear the impact of a Google takeover on their business relationship with ITA. Google has promised to honor all ITA's existing business agreements, but those assurances have failed to silence critics.

Opponents also fear Google could use its dominant position in the search market to drive traffic to its own search offerings and cut off competitors. Google said earlier this month that its goal is to drive more traffic to online travel sites by improving the search experience for users.

According to FairSearch, ITA's technology powers 65 percent of flight searches at airline websites, including six of the top 10 U.S. carriers. The Department of Justice is currently reviewing the antitrust implications of the merger.

Update: Google spokesman Adam Kovacevich sends the following statement in response:

"I'm not sure there are any surprises here. Microsoft is our largest competitor and lobbies regulators against every acquisition we make; Foundem hasn't liked where they rank in Google results and has been asking government authorities for years to regulate our results; and Zuji is a subsidiary of Sabre, which helped create FairSearch. It's disappointing but not surprising that established players are defending the status quo, while we plan to provide consumers with better flight search tools and more choices and drive more traffic to travel websites."

-- This post was updated at 4:46pm.