Kayak: Up the river without a paddle.

Kayak appears to have a hole in it. You’d expect me to say that after Skoosh’s rift with the company but even I was amazed to read that Kayak now has a public dispute with one of its key partners, Orbitz.

Until recently Kayak was the model travel comparison site. As far as I could see, all the other underlings modelled themselves on Kayak. It has a broad range of suppliers and excellent functionality only challenged by SideStep which it went on to buy.

So, what on earth is going on with the price comparison site? No sooner than it announces a proposed IPO then we find that Orbitz is calling for arbitration over Kayak’s failure to properly document payments owed to the company.

Even if that wasn’t acceptable under usual business terms what makes it particularly strange is that Kayak’s founders and management team are closely connected to Orbitz. Indeed, Kayak’s CEO was a co-founder of Orbitz and Orbitz accounted for 18.8% of total revenues for the nine months ended September 30, 2010.

Now Kayak is wrangling both with its own commercial partners and pushing for an investigation into Google’s I.T.A. acquisition which it clearly feels is a tangible threat to its business further down the line.

Whilst it makes sense for Kayak to get out of the water before it hits the rapids (please excuse the extended and obvious metaphor) this is clearly not the right time. The smart money must be on its smaller competitors Trivago, Momondo and Hotelscombined.

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