Monday 19 March 2018

Airbnb to add flight booking service feature as it chases revenue

Co-founder and cto of Airbnb Nathan Blecharczyk
Co-founder and cto of Airbnb Nathan Blecharczyk

Olivia Zaleski and Gerrit De Vynck

Airbnb is developing a service for booking air travel as the home-rental startup looks to compete with Priceline Group and Expedia for more of people's online travel spending.

Development of the flight- booking feature is at an early stage, and the company is considering various routes to break into the business, said people familiar with the plans.

Airbnb may acquire an online travel agency or license data from a provider, such as Amadeus IT Group SA or Sabre Corp, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing unfinished products.

Within the company, the project is simply known as Flights, the people said. Airbnb aims to get Flights off the ground before it pursues an initial public offering, which is likely in the next 18 months, the people said.

Nick Papas, a spokesman for Airbnb, declined to comment on the flight-booking plans and said the company doesn't plan to go public in the near future.

Since it started eight years ago, Airbnb helped create a global industry out of staying in strangers' home.

But the company is hoping to find new sources of revenue as it matures.

Last month, it added tours, restaurant reservations and other travel services with an initiative called Airbnb Trips. The startup, which was valued at $30bn (€28.7) by investors this year, has said it wants to be a destination for planning a person's entire vacation, not just a place to stay.

Moving into flights would be a shot across the bows of Priceline and Expedia, which operate the largest sites for flight searches and bookings.

Margins in online travel are typically higher in hotels and property rentals, but flights help draw people to the sites. Alphabet pushed into the space in 2010, when it acquired airline data provider ITA Software for $700m (€670m) to bolster its own flight-search tools.

Co-founder and cto of Airbnb Nathan Blecharczyk oversees the company's technical strategy.

Steve Hafner, ceo of flight search website Kayak, said last month that many accommodation companies have tried unsuccessfully to break into flight search. "I'm not really worried about Airbnb getting into flights," he said at a conference.


Irish Independent

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