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Google launches tool to search for the best fares

Almost five months after Google bought a Massachusetts flight-information software company, the Internet giant has unleased the fruits of that $700-million purchase.

Google's airfare search tool was unveiled recently, offering what Google says is a faster, more flexible online tool for finding the lowest fare between two locations. Reviews have been mixed, but Google says it plans to upgrade the site soon.

The tool -- found at www.google.com/flights -- shows only domestic, round-trip, economy-class fares. Flights to many small cities are not included.

The Google site shows prices for carriers and enables travelers to filter flights by price, number of stops and duration. Other features let travelers see ticket prices over a span of dates and from several airports in a region at the same time.

But none of this is groundbreaking. The big advantage of the Google site is its speed.

"It's almost instantaneous," said Ed Perkins, a contributing editor for the website Smarter Travel. For now, he said, the site won't be popular with business travelers, who typically want a selection of seat classes and don't have much flexibility in their schedules.

The April acquisition of ITA, the flight-information software company, had unnerved other travel-industry players, which worried that it would give Google too much influence over the online travel industry.

For good reason, Perkins said. "Anybody who competes with Google should be worried, just because it's Google, and they have the resources and the clout."

Perks expected on the road

Business travelers are expected to hit the road again, and they want hotels to step up with free amenities.

Those are among the conclusions of a survey of more than 2,000 adults, including 780 business travelers, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of hotel giant Best Western International.

In the survey, 73 percent of business travelers said they plan to travel the same or more this fall than they did last fall. When it comes to hotel amenities, 74 percent of business travelers said they expect free parking and 65 percent expect breakfast to be included in the rate. And 80 percent said they want free Internet access on the road.

L.A. hotel to put iPad 2s in rooms

When it comes to free in-room amenities, the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills is offering more than extra towels and tiny shampoo bottles. Starting Oct. 3, all 285 rooms and suites will have Apple's iPad 2 tablet computers.

But the tablets are not freebies. Guest can use the high-tech gadgets to order room service, call for the valet to have a car ready, make dinner reservations and call for housekeeping, among other services.

You can use the iPad to do this free of charge, but if you want to use it to connect to the wireless Internet in the room, there is a fee.

The hotel said it is the first Four Seasons in the world to put iPad 2s in the rooms. What's to keep you from walking off with it?

If the iPad is missing after you check out, the hotel will charge you $800.

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