Airbnb Is Building a Flight-Booking Tool
Airbnb is developing a service for booking air travel as the home-rental startup looks to compete with Priceline and Expedia for more of people's online travel spending, according to Bloomberg. Development of the flight-booking feature is early, 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 or Sabre, 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.
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 $700 million to bolster its own flight-search tools.
Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky gave a presentation last month in Los Angeles, where he showed off new designs for the company's website and apps. One image contained a small airplane graphic in a section called Trip Itinerary. This is where Airbnb intends to provide suggestions for the best airfare options based on price, travel time and expected weather conditions, said the people familiar with the plans.