Google announced today that it has acquired ITA Software, a Cambridge, Mass. company whose technology combines flight information (like pricing and availability) from multiple airlines. The search giant says it will pay $700 million for the acquisition.

Some acquisitions, including Google’s, prompt plenty of speculation around what they signal for the larger company. This time, however, the company is sharing some details upfront. Google says it will use ITA’s technology to create a search tool for comparing flight information and pricing, but it won’t sell tickets. It’s too early to discuss timing, Google says, because the deal is subject to regulatory approval.

Speaking of regulatory approval, one of the big themes in Google’s announcement site is that the acquisition shouldn’t have a big effect on the broader online flight market — presumably, Google is getting this message out early so it can avoid the lengthy federal investigation that held up its AdMob acquisition. For one thing, it said it plans to continue serving ITA customers, including flight search services Bing, Kayak, Orbitz, plus a number of airlines. More broadly, Google says it wants to preserve competition.

Here’s an example from the Frequently Asked Questions Page:

Are you trying to compete with companies like Orbitz and Kayak?
The online travel industry is competitive, with a range of companies that provide different solutions for users. Google is interested in building new flight search tools for users that will make it easier for them to search for flights, compare available flight options and prices, and get them quickly to sites where they can buy their tickets. We’ll work to continue to have productive partnerships with as many online travel companies and industry players as possible.

It remains to be seen whether regulators see things the same way Google does.


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