Google pulls flight API search, putting its competition in a tight spot

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Several aggregator apps for finding the best airfare prices will soon need to find a new way to integrate travel deals — Google recently quietly announced the closure of QPX Express API, code that allows third-party apps to pull flight search data into their own programs.

QPX Express API allows other apps to pull in-flight data to compare aspects like prices and flight times. While it’s unclear which platforms currently use the system, the API has, in the past, helped power searches inside Kayak and Orbitz, along with apps from specific airlines and smaller travel startups. QPX Express is a lighter version of the original QPX designed for small businesses, though it looks like the original QPX will still be available. Without the QPX Express, these smaller apps will have to find new solutions for in-flight flight data from multiple sources.

The QXP Express API will close down on April 10 — new signups have been disabled as Google leaves a few months for apps currently using the platform to find alternatives. The change was only announced through an updated FAQ page, which also says that the fees are dropping as the program closes, with the $0.035 per query rate now at $0.02.

With the quiet announcement, Google did not say exactly why it is shutting down the service, but the change probably has something to do with Google Flights and Google Trips. With Google’s own flight-booking system steadily gaining new tools, shutting down the QXP Express leaves Google Trips with that API, while leaving competitors without the tool.

Google acquired ITA Software, the company that created GPX, during a deal that spanned 2010 and 2011. Part of the agreement required Google to keep the API open to third-party apps for five years while integrating the program into their own programs. Google later developed the API into QPX Express in 2013, a lighter version of the software. Google has since expanded Google Flights to include predictions on when ticket prices will rise.

The flight app originally created by ITA, OnTheFly, will also shut down next month, with Google suggesting users instead use Google Flights or the still functioning ITA Matrix search.

Google didn’t offer a list of suggestions for replacing the QPX Express API, but there are similar services. According to TechCrunch, Fareportal, Skyscanner, and Skypicker offer similar flight- search APIs.

Exactly which apps will be affected by the change isn’t yet clear, but users shouldn’t be surprised if a favorite travel app looks a bit different next spring.

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