Flight comparison website Skyscanner has been bought for £1.4billion by China’s biggest online travel firm, Ctrip.

Founded by a group of Manchester students in 2003, the site grew into one of the largest travel search platforms in the world - with roughly 60 million monthly users in more than 30 languages.

Its current management team will continue to run Skyscanner independently, but as part of the Chinese group.

James Jianzhang Liang, co-founder and executive chairman of Ctrip, said: “Skyscanner is one of the largest travel search platforms in the world.

“[We] share the same passion and dedication in providing travellers around the world with better services. This acquisition will strengthen long-term growth drivers for both companies.

“Skyscanner will complement our positioning at a global scale and Ctrip will leverage our experience, technology and booking capabilities to Skyscanner’s.”

Gareth Williams, co-founder and chief executive officer of Skyscanner, said: “Ctrip is the clear market leader in China and a company we can learn a huge amount from.

“Today’s news takes Skyscanner one step closer to our goal of making travel search as simple as possible for travellers around the world

“[We]will remain operationally independent and our growing global team will continue to innovate and deliver the products travellers know and love.

“It’s an exciting time for our business, our partners and the travellers who use us.”

Now based in Edinburgh, Skyscanner began when Williams met co-founder Bonamy Grimes on their first day at the University of Manchester.

The firm was then established in 2003 with IT professional and Barry Smith.

Founded in 1999, Ctrip.com International is a leading travel service provider of accommodation reservations, transportation ticketing, packaged tours and corporate travel management in China.