The websites for Cape Air and Nantucket Airlines now have new booking software under the hood powered by Google-owned ITA Software, one of the "Ten Most Innovative Companies in Transportation," according to Fast Company.
ITA Software was acquired by Google in 2010. So far, the partnership has produced new flight search results for desktop and mobile Google searches. Today, you can use a normal Google search for every step of planning a flight (in the U.S.) other than buying the ticket.
But it's clear from the Cape Air arrangement that Google wants that business, too. It made sure to point out that ITA's Cape Air system is "built to scale to support airlines of all sizes."
Here's the problem: Google needs credit cards. If it's going to be a future payment platform, it needs to have its users' credit cards stored (like Apple does). That's why it now asks new Gmail users for a credit card when they sign up. They don't have to give their card, but Google wants it.
By becoming a convenient point of sale for something, Google can get its users to add credit cards to their accounts. Booking flights is a great business for Google to get into, because there's lots of friction in the process. A Google search seems like a natural place to start looking for flights.
It's just a search ad business for now, between desktop and mobile flight search and Google Maps inside airports. But when Google scales the flight booking system it built for Cape Air, it will be able to give users the option to make their travel plans using Google all the way.