Retail

Airbnb To Branch Out Into Flights

Airbnb Inc. is looking for ways to further wire itself into its customers’ travel experiences. Sure they’ve already disrupted the lodging part of every vacation — by offering an alternative to hotels — but now their eyes are turning skyward for their next opportunity: Airbnb Flights.

Literally — Airbnb is developing a service for booking air travel.  Priceline and Expedia, watch out.

Eventually. Airbnb is reportedly early in the development process for the new flight-booking feature and is still perhaps in the planning phase. Speculation on how Airnbn is actually going to break into air-travel booking remains up in the air.  There is a thought the start-up will acquire an online travel agency or license data from a provider, such as Amadeus IT Group SA or Sabre Corp.

The project is called “Flights” internally, according to sources who prefer to remain anonymous. According to those same sources, Airbnb’s goal is to get Airbnb Flights to take off before it goes after its long speculated-upon IPO.

It is worth noting that Airbnb has publicly affirmed it doesn’t plan to go public in the immediate future.

The move into flights compliments other recent expansion — last month, the company added tours, restaurant reservations and other travel services with an initiative called Airbnb Trips. The goal, according to Airbnb’s upper management, is to make the app and site a one stop shop for travelers of all types.

Flights, though a low margin area, is considered key for those making a big travel play.  Alphabet Inc. pushed into the space in 2010, when it acquired airline data provider ITA Software for $700 million. And Airbnb Flights’ entrance is not yet filling anyone with fear.

Steve Hafner, chief executive officer of flight search website Kayak, noted breaking into airline booking is actually a good deal harder than many give it credit for.

“I’m not really worried about Airbnb getting into flights,” he said at a conference.

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