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February 8, 2008 9:59 AM

Farecast adds international flights, overseas markets next

Posted by Brier Dudley

Farecast dramatically increased its offering today, a move that may better position the company to get in on the merger activity happening recently in the online travel space ...

The Seattle startup, which offers to save consumers money by predicting airfares, today added information on flights to and from the U.S. It added free predictions for about 200 top destinations in Europe, Mexico, the Caribbean and Canada.

Farecast was started in 2003 based on a concept by University of Washington computer science professor Oren Etzioni and funded by Madrona and other venture firms.

International flights were the "No. 1 one most requested feature by consumers," Hugh Crean, chief executive, said in the release.

In addition to rounding out Farecast's offering, international data also positions the company to extend its services overseas and begin serving non-U.S. consumers. Mike Fridgen, Farecast's marketing VP, told me that building international sites with localized language and currencies "is something we hope to launch later this year."

Meanwhile the online travel business is heating up, or was, before economic concerns worsened. In December, Norwalk, Conn.-based travel site raised $196 million and spent $200 million acquiring rival in Santa Clara, Calif.

Farecast seemed ripe for acquisition by a larger travel site that could add Farecast predictions as a cornerstone feature, but I wonder if travel companies will hold tight until the consumer spending outlook is better.

Or maybe an acquisition will be more likely now that Farecast's predictions are approaching full-service -- with the addition of more travel destinations and overseas services -- and travelers are more desperate for deals.

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