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Google China relocated from the mainland to Hong Kong in 2010 after hacking attacks and much government censorship, but it has secured a new foothold in China of a different sort by striking a technology deal with the largest airline in Asia, China Southern Airlines.
The multi-year agreement has little to do with standard Google search per se, but instead SkyTeam member China Southern Airlines has agreed to begin using Google’s QPX airfare pricing and shopping technology, developed by Google unit ITA Software, for its websites.
It’s a big win for Google/ITA in Asia given the size of the airline, which carried 86 million passengers in 2012, and in 2013 did CYN 9 billion ($1.5 billion) in sales. China Southern is Google/ITA’s first airline customer in China, although it has a relationship with the smaller ANA in Japan.
The airfare search technology will enable travelers to surf China Southern’s websites to get more accurate fares and availability information, and will enhance international booking and reward redemption capabilities in the hope that the airline will increase its share of direct bookings.
Importantly, the deals bolsters China Southern’s strategy to turn its Guangzhou base into a major hub to tap into the huge upswing of outbound Chinese travelers.
“China Southern is making Guangzhou the hub of southern China, and we are expanding our business in Australia and other countries,” a spokesperson says. “As the number of outbound passengers is growing, we hope to seize the opportunity with the help of this new technology.”
With its Skyteam membership, China Southern can boast of a network that covers more than 1,000 destinations in 187 countries.
“We’re thrilled that China Southern Airlines is joining our many clients around the world in using QPX pricing and shopping technology,” says Kevin Wang, Google’s strategic partner manager, travel. “We continue to invest in improving the QPX technology and work closely with companies like China Southern Airlines to provide a great ticket shopping experience for their customers.”