Google Flights May Shift Technique After Heavy Layoffs


Particularly heavy layoffs at Google Flights, together with senior managers and engineers who joined Google with the ITA Software program acquisition in 2011, may sign technique shifts within the firm’s multifaceted airline enterprise, Skift has realized.

Any modifications to Google’s airline technique may doubtlessly have implications for airline companions, international distribution methods Sabre and Amadeus, metasearch rivals resembling Kayak and Skyscanner, in addition to vacationers.

Google delivered its largest layoffs ever — about 12,000 staff, or round 6 p.c of its full-time workforce — 10 days in the past, and it’s believed that firings at Google Flights, which had 100 or extra staff on its engineering crew alone, reached 10-12 p.c.

The cuts at Google Flights particularly impacted individuals who beforehand labored at ITA Software program, which turned the muse of Google Flights, and in addition Google’s enterprise flights platform, which at the moment powers e-commerce at airline web sites together with American, Alaska, Air Canada, China Jap, Delta, United, Iberia, Latam, Turkish, Virgin and others.

“As I hear by social media and the grapevine about different staff who’ve been affected, I discover myself amazed at what number of good engineers — a few of whom I’ve identified even earlier than ITA turned Google — are actually searching for new alternatives,” wrote Stephen Peters, a Google senior software program engineer, on LinkedIn. “I depend myself fortunate to have labored with these implausible folks and want them the perfect going ahead.”

Along with Peters, amongst these axed from Google Flights have been James Russell, senior director of engineering for Google Journey, who had 10-12 direct experiences; Cynthia Towne, senior product specialist at Google Journey who, earlier than becoming a member of ITA in 2007, had 31 years’ expertise at Northwest Airways, and Michael Reilly, who managed the airline pricing crew at Google and did a decade at American Airways earlier than his stint at ITA.

These Google Journey staff had “large voices” on product and engineering points, mentioned one Google Journey veteran, who was fired with the others and declined to be recognized.

Richard Holden, vice chairman of product administration at Google Journey, stays in his management place. [See a video of a Skift interview with Holden about Google Travel in September 2022 embedded below.]

Skift reached out to roughly two dozen Google Journey staff, and heard again from a handful. One mentioned many can be reluctant to talk to the press as a result of they’re nonetheless on the Google payroll by March 31, and would threat their “beneficiant” severance packages.

One supply mentioned he was “extremely assured” that Google Flights, which debuted in beta within the fall of 2011 and has develop into a vital supply of shoppers for airways, was extra deeply impacted by the layoffs than the remainder of Google Journey, and Google general.

Potential Technique Adjustments

The inordinately great amount of layoffs at Google Flights on a proportion foundation may sign:

  • A diminution of the significance of Google Flights as a standalone net vacation spot and a tilt towards integrating flights extra closely into Google Search on the place it may be monetized higher. One threat in that technique is that Google Journey turns into much less cohesive as a trip-planning vacation spot.
  • Better emphasis on resorts, trip leases and issues to do inside Google Journey as a result of that is the place the cash is quite than from Google Flights.
  • An extra discount in focus and funding in Google’s enterprise enterprise for airline web sites.

Requested to remark for this story, a Google spokesperson mentioned: “Journey stays a precedence for Google, together with our ongoing work on flight search and airline enterprise merchandise. Our focus has all the time been on serving to vacationers discover the knowledge they want and supporting our journey companions as they appear to attach with clients on-line and this is not going to change.”

Understanding Google’s Airline Enterprise

To grasp these potential adjustments, one wants to know Google’s multifaceted airline enterprise. There are mainly a minimum of 4 components:

  1. The presently non-revenue-producing Google Flights at inside Google Journey at, with the latter providing flights, resorts, trip leases, issues to do. The way in which it really works is customers click on on an airline hyperlink in Google Flights and get directed to an airline or on-line journey company web site for reserving.
  2. Flights inside Google Search at, which set off on-line journey company and metasearch advert income.
  3. Google’s revenue-producing e-commerce enterprise for airways, and a handful of company journey websites and on-line journey companies resembling Scholar Universe. Google will get income from 5- to 7-year contracts with airways like Delta, American, and Latam, for instance, however its dedication and investments have been waning lately as companions fell off as a result of they have been casualties of mergers or on-line journey companies like Expedia Group’s Orbitz and Hotwire, in addition to Kayak, dropped out for aggressive causes.
  4. Amongst airways, Google Cloud counts the Lufthansa Group as a buyer, in addition to Sabre amongst international distribution methods.

Google Flights in Google Journey

Supply: Google

The picture reveals flight search outcomes on Google Flights at, which is a part of Google Journey. Google has struggled and tried quite a few methods to monetize Google Flights through the years.

Google Flights has develop into for a lot of airways their greatest supply of shoppers who don’t go on to the carriers’ web sites. You’ll discover within the picture there are presently no commercials inside Google Flights. The characteristic is “free” for airways as a result of Google doesn’t cost them a price when vacationers click on on a hyperlink and navigate to the airline web site. Nonetheless, airways have their very own overhead prices to maintain collaborating in Google Flights as a result of they’re obliged to furnish Google with correct fare and availability information.

In efforts through the years to monetize Google Flights, on the urging of Google’s product crew, based on a supply, Google tried to bundle sure providers in company journey however that didn’t work properly as a result of companies needed extra management over the appliance, and Google didn’t have the assets to deal with flight adjustments by way of name middle brokers, for instance.

Google additionally tried upselling airways’ premium merchandise inside Google Flights.

On-line journey companies beforehand marketed in Google Flights however there are presently no advertisements in Google Flights.

“None of those fashions was large cash,” the Google Journey supply mentioned.

The supply mentioned that even earlier than the layoffs, Google has been transitioning staff out of Flights and its airline enterprise enterprise, and into Google Journey’s resorts, trip leases, and issues to do, in addition to sustainability. Within the case of resorts and issues to do, a minimum of, there’s a better income potential than for flights. U.S. airways received stingy about paying flight commissions 20 years in the past.

Google Flights Inside Google Search

Supply: Google

The picture reveals on-line journey company advertisements and flight search outcomes on

There have been ongoing discussions inside Google through the years concerning the steadiness of, and income potential for, flights inside Google Journey at versus inside Google Search on Some observers really feel the heavier proportionate layoffs of senior product managers and engineers, and extra junior staff inside Google Flights than elsewhere in Google Journey and Google general imply there’ll seemingly be better emphasis and funding to return in flights on versus flights inside Google Journey.

The concept is that Google would possibly place extra assets on creating income from flights in, which set off on-line journey company and tourism advertisements, as a substitute of giving strong consideration to creating new options for Google Flights at If Google had needed to remain laser centered on Google Flights inside Google Journey would the corporate have lower so deeply into the ranks of its most skilled staff there?

Customers wouldn’t essentially discover any stronger emphasis on flights inside versus at as a result of Google nonetheless would seemingly replace flyer-facing options in Google Flights, however this wouldn’t essentially require the identical quantity of assets that deeper growth did pre-layoffs, goes the idea.

Within the run-up to the layoffs, Google had certainly been specializing in bettering Google Flights. Google in Could launched new methods to trace flight costs for any dates, and in September debuted a filter for flights with decrease carbon emissions on Google Flights. In its business-to-business efforts, Google launched a instrument for airways to assist pinpoint new routes with doubtlessly strong shopper demand.

However will that focus persist within the wake of the deep labor drive cuts at Google Flights?

One hostile state of affairs for Google’s airline relationships may happen if carriers come to consider Google’s dedication to Google Flights is waning within the type of seeing Google shedding this continent of airline industry-ITA Software program veterans who the airways have handled through the years, or the airways detect an absence of funding in Google Flights enhancements.

Though it’s removed from sure whether or not it will truly happen, this might conceivably result in some airways curbing their commitments to Google Flights, triggering incremental reductions within the accuracy of availability and pricing information. A shopper in idea due to this fact would possibly navigate from Google Flights to, and never discover the flight or fare they have been searching for.

“If airways who view Goggle Flight search as a priceless supply for leads, and a excessive proportion of leads develop into gross sales, and overhead prices inside their operational budgets [are reasonable], then the airways will make it a degree to offer the mandatory information to Google for availability and pricing,” the ex-Googler mentioned. “Google administration is likely to be pondering that it’s undertaking what we’d like, and we’ll not put money into additional experiments for another sort of income.”

Google’s E-Commerce Enterprise for Airline Web sites

Though Google doesn’t gather price per click on charges on airline hyperlinks inside Google Flights, it certainly has revenue-producing, long-term contracts with almost a dozen airways, and a few company journey companies to energy their web sites with providers together with flight pricing and purchasing, and the sale of ancillary merchandise. Ancillaries embrace issues resembling premium seats and checked baggage.

Google inherited this QPX software program enterprise, now known as the enterprise flights platform, from ITA Software program when the acquisition closed in 2011.

“Google actually cared about this enterprise 10 years in the past,” the supply mentioned, because it retained Google Flights staff who beforehand labored for a few years at airways, and invested within the enterprise. The checklist of ITA Software program by Google clients in 2012 featured round 30 companions, together with airways, on-line journey corporations, and journey administration corporations.

Google/ITA Software program Enterprise Companions in 2012

Supply: Wayback Machine/ITA Software program

Their ranks have dwindled to round 20, as publicized on the ITA Software program by Google web site, with some reductions fueled by airline mergers and the emergence of Google Journey as a aggressive drive.

Google Enterprise Companions in Journey in 2023

Supply: Google

The ex-Googler mentioned the corporate over the past 12 months has tamped down funding on this e-commerce and enterprise aspect of its airline enterprise, and had been transferring some Google Flights and enterprise platform staff earlier than the layoffs towards Google resorts, trip leases, issues to do, and sustainability efforts.

“Airways will see the distinction if Google doesn’t put money into enterprise software program,” the ex-Googler mentioned. “They’ve been utilizing ITA/Google for 12 years.”

This might characterize a possibility for international distribution methods resembling Sabre and Amadeus, which already energy sure back-end features of airline web sites, to step in and change Google for a few of these e-commerce features.

Is there a possibility for metasearch websites resembling Kayak and Skyscanner if Google’s flight-price accuracy slips?

Kayak co-founder and CEO Steve Hafner wouldn’t touch upon inner dynamics at Google, however mentioned: “Kayak customers have all the time loved higher comprehensiveness, accuracy and availability than they may discover on Google.  We simply couldn’t match their velocity. Hopefully that can decelerate, too.” 

There have typically been folks within the journey {industry} questioning when will Google pull all issues journey collectively and promote Google Journey as a major, go to this web site first journey planning vacation spot to compete immediately towards, Expedia and Airbnb.

As the continued deliberations about Google’s flights technique happen, it’s clear there’s an excessive amount of promoting cash on the desk within the aspect of the flights enterprise to benefit such an all-in method.

Corrections: The Google Flights crew pre-layoffs had 100 or extra engineers, in order that was not the dimensions of your entire Google Flights workers, as reported. The worker roster for your entire Google Flights crew was considerably bigger than 100 staff. Additionally, Google didn’t obtain a fee for E-book on Google, as we initially reported.