Heathrow airport
Passengers have dropped and flights have been canceled all over the world. Photo: Supplied

China’s largest online travel agency Ctrip will buy British flight search app Skyscanner for US$1.7 billion as it steps up its overseas ambitions.

The travel service provider will pay £1.4 billion mainly cash for the Edinburgh-based firm, the companies said in separate statements late Wednesday.

NASDAQ-listed Ctrip, partly owned by Chinese search giant Baidu, provides online booking for airline and railway tickets as well as hotels, and describes itself as China’s largest travel company.

It generated more than 350 billion yuan (US$51 billion) in gross merchandise value last year, the firm said on its website, referring to a measure of online sales.

Skyscanner provides similar services to Ctrip and has 60 million monthly active users, mainly in Europe.

Skyscanner will remain operationally independent with its current management team, the statements said.

Shanghai-based Ctrip merged with another major Chinese online agency Qunar last year to create the country’s biggest internet travel service.

The deal gave Baidu, which controlled Qunar, a 25% stake in Ctrip.

The Skyscanner deal, already approved by boards of both firms, is still subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to be completed by the end of 2016.