If you book flights through online travel agencies, such as Expedia, Orbitz, Kayak.com, etc., other than the airline’s website, you will be surprised to know about a new competitor. Yup! That’s right, folks! That competitor is none other than Google Flights which is owned by Google Corporation. A Guide on Google Flights and Its Top Features all in one article. It’s been just over a decade since tech giant Google started its new web search service to help you find and book budget flights with ease.
In this travel guide prepared by Treknova, we will give you an insight into the Google Flights web search service tool, and also take a look at its features.
What are Google Flights?
Technically, Google Flights is a web search engine (basic metasearch) tool dedicated to finding different fares for flights and also lets you book flights online. To accomplish this, it uses the metasearch algorithm in order to collect and display the results from various sources in less time. This information is thus, provided to you through multiple search engines, airline websites, and online travel agencies alike.
If you are wondering what is a metasearch, then here is a simple definition for easy understanding. In computer terminology, a metasearch engine is like an aggregator that gathers data from different web search engines in order to display the results to users. It is thus, an information retrieval tool that aggregates searched results into a single master list or sometimes, even categorizes the results by their originating search engines.
In short, we can break this down by saying that Google Flights acts as a middleman between you (i.e., your query) and several search engines and online sources just to give you the desired results.
How Google Flights Work
To use Google Flights, there is no need to register with the search service. Simply head over to the web search engine website https://www.google.com/flights using a web browser and begin your flight booking query. It allows you to make searches based on criteria other than the destination. For example, you may search for flights within a range of times and a budget and be offered various destination choices.
Alternatively, you can also select a destination, and Google Flights will automatically calculate every fare for each day of the next 12 months. This is usually represented in a graph or table format, which makes it a lot easier for users to quickly spot the cheapest date to fly to their chosen destination.
Google Flights uses a GDS (global distribution system) to tap into the inventory offered by airlines and online travel agencies (OTAs), like Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline, etc. It then shows those respective fares to you (you being the consumer).
Best flights on top results
Best flights are always displayed at the top of the results page and are supposed to be options that give you the best trade-off between price and convenience. You will usually see non-stop flights here along with a couple of the cheapest connection flights.
Other flights on the bottom results
On the other hand, all other flights will be displayed at the bottom of the results page. You can view all the flights which may even include a few hundred flights. You will also notice that some airlines like Southwest do not make their pricing data available. But, you can still see their flight schedule here. You can usually follow links that will take you directly to the airline’s website to book.
Google Flights shows you round-trip prices, including taxes and will also tell you about any extra fees charged for luggage. Once you select a flight, you can choose to book with the airline or with an online travel agency; you don’t book through Google Flights.
Also, Google Flights does not have a mobile app, but you can use the site from your smartphone or from a desktop/laptop computer. Keep in mind though, certain functionality may not work as well or at all on mobile phones.
Some experts even recommend users search Google Flights in Google’s “Incognito” mode since there are chances the prices could differ based on the user’s geographical location. While the web browser’s Incognito mode does work in many situations, however, others say there is not much different to using this, especially when it comes to searching on Google Flights. Nevertheless, there is no harm in giving it a try, though.
Features of Google Flights Search Tool
Now that you’ve got a brief idea about Google Flights and how it works, let’s also take a look at the features that it offers.
Searches are faster
Google Flights is faster than any other flight search engine, displaying months’ worth of fares in fractions of a second. The search results will show you all the different flights and their fares that are available. But, in order to view more details, you will need to click on the flight and you will be able to view a lot of useful information that will better prepare you for your flight, such as your flight number, aircraft type, and the amount of leg room.
Google Flights provides a standard search feature on its website. You can enter an entire city to include multiple airports or you can enter multiple airports with commas separating them. For example, typing in New York will select the big three: JFK, LGA, and EWR but you always type in the airports individually.
Google Flights allows you to add up to five segments if you are looking to string together a multi-city itinerary. However, note that when you search for a round-trip or multi-city journey, the price shown on the right will always be the total price of all the flights. Searching for multi-segment journeys as separate flights can be a great way to save money instead of putting all the segments on a single itinerary.
Calendar-based fare view
Google Flights has a simple, intuitive calendar view that shows you the cheapest fare over the next 12 months. When you click on the calendar icon in the search area, you will see an entire calendar view with the cheapest prices for each day. This is essentially the flexible dates search feature of Google Flights.
The prices in green indicate the cheaper deals, while prices in red will often be more expensive. Sometimes, you may also have to scroll ahead for a couple of months to see any of the green prices.
Multiple airport search
Google Flights lets you search for the cheapest fare between up to 7 origin and 7 destination airports, without slowing the search down.
The Google Flights Explore map lets you see the cheapest place to fly from your airport during your selected dates/date range. Know how google maps help. The feature is excellent for quickly viewing airfare prices to random cities around the US and the entire world. You simply click on the map on the Google Flights homepage and you should be shown a map with prices to various cities from your current location. The closer you zoom in, the more prices that you’ll see. You can then click on those cities for a full list of flight prices for that route.
One of Google Flights’ most powerful features is the ability to set an array of filters to ensure you only get search results you’re interested in. These include:
- Number of stops
- Layover duration
- Which (if any) connecting airports
- Price ceiling
- Flight times
- Which airline(s) and/or airline alliance(s)
- The total length of the flight
You can find these filters just underneath the date boxes.
Finding Best Flights Deals Using Google Flights
Using the Google Flights web search tool, you can find cheap flights and also compare their prices quickly.
Once you finally narrow down your options to your desired flight, click on the flight and click the “Select” button. At this stage, you will also be able to see if you have booked a basic economy flight. Once you hit select, you will be taken directly to the airline’s website to book and your itinerary will likely be pre-loaded on their site.
Google Flights shows you flight prices from airlines and online travel agencies, but it is not an online travel agency itself. It does not sell flights to the consumer, and you cannot book directly with Google Flights.
Therefore, you don’t do things like select seats, pay for your flight, or get a refund directly via Google Flights. Note that all payments, booking, and customer service are handled via the airline or another online travel agency. There is also no way to contact or call Google Flights customer service for assistance.
Another important thing to note here is that not all airlines are on Google Flights. One major exception in the US is Southwest Airlines, which does not list its fares on Google Flights. Also, several major airline carriers in Asia are absent from the results. A few such airlines include Air China, China Eastern, Thai Airways, and Philippine Airlines. In addition, other airlines, such as Aeromexico, Interjet, Oman Air, and EVA Air, only have some, but not all, of their flights listed on the Google Flights web search service.
Google Flights is a fine web search tool to find low-priced fares and book your flights quickly. It does not require users to register to use the online service and the results are also pretty decent. However, there will be tough competition between other online travel agencies and Google as the purpose served is the same in almost all aspects of what a user desires.