Airbnb apparently wants to move beyond simply helping people find a place to stay — it wants to become a full-on travel agent. That’s based on reports suggesting that the company may soon help people book flights.
The news was detailed in a report from Bloomberg, which suggests that Airbnb wants to get into flight booking, but it also says that Airbnb is still in the early stages of putting together such a feature. It’s possible that Airbnb could either acquire an already existing travel agency or license booking data for itself.
According to the report, Airbnb hopes to get its new flight-booking feature up and running before it pursues an initial public offering — which could be at some point in the next 18 months.
The new feature would put Airbnb in direct competition with the likes of Expedia, which also offers large-scale hotel and flight bookings. Flight bookings don’t just mean that people will be able to book flights through Airbnb — offering a more inclusive travel plan will also help more people book accommodations on Airbnb, which could be very advantageous to the company.
The news comes at a time when Airbnb is wrapped in a number of legal disputes over how the site operates in certain cities. For example, in New York City, Airbnb filed a lawsuit after the city passed a law calling for huge fines on property owners who advertised rentals in buildings of “three or more units.” Airbnb argued that the suit’s wording wasn’t clear enough to protect online platforms, which couldn’t really be held responsible if landlords broke the law. In settling the suit, New York City agreed to go after specific landlords rather than the listing companies. Still, Airbnb is also facing similar suits in New Orleans, San Francisco, and Amsterdam.
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