As part of its Bing service roll-out, Microsoft launched Bing Travel this morning. Combining the functionality of airfare comparison, Farecast's airfare and hotel deal forecast tools with MSN Travel's news and editorial content, the Redmond, Washington-based company hopes to gain an edge in niche search. Hugh Crean, general manager of Bing Travel, wants to make at least one part of the travelling process easy - security and luggage are such hassles, "researching and booking travel should be simple and easy..."
According to Microsoft's press release, 52 percent of potential travelers search three or more sites before booking. Bing Travel combines various fare comparison sites into the search interface, but that has been done before. What does Microsoft think are the real innovations of Bing Travel?
Price Predictor - Microsoft acquired Farecast technology in 2008 to predict whether the flight prices will likely increase or decrease. The "Buy Now," or "Wait" recommendation is fortified with confidence level and expected price increase or decrease
Rate Indicator - Historical rate data shows whether or not the current price is a good deal
Travel Deals - Airfare and hotel prices with different criteria show cheap flight deals, record low airline tickets, last minute deals and other lists
Fare Alerts - trip fare notifications
Travel editorial content - daily articles, features, slide shows and blog posts on "destinations, travel news, tips and tricks." Original content appears alongside licensed content from Travel + Leisure, Budget Travel Inc. and The Wall Street Journal
The interface deviates from Crean's proposal of simplicity: search options allow the user to choose destinations and have them compared in so many ways it almost interferes with the usability of the service - graphing when is cheapest to travel over thirty days or mapping multiple routes in one window. Despite the bloat, this comprehensive airfare site is very useful.