The aviation and travel industry took to the internet like ducks to water, with airlines and travel agencies able to sell seats at optimum pricing to ensure full jets. People loved it too, as they could use flight search engines to jump on trips at the last minute with the minimum of fuss, travelling at competitive prices. All of which brings us to Google Flights, the return of cheap flights and the post-COVID return to the skies.
Google likes to have its AI and (natural language processing) NLP-powered fingers in as many pies as possible. As a result, its areas of business have soared from search to Gmail, business productivity and cloud computing for enterprises.
There's also Google Stadia for gaming, Google Home for smart home technology and a growing range of research AI projects under Google's parent company Alphabet.
Google got interested in flights with the 2011 acquisition of ITA Software, a player in the flight prices market. It used a clever tool called QPX software powered by smart algorithms to combine and parse multiple sets of flight information from airlines, including pricing and availability data, to create an up-to-date database that can be searched by third parties like travel and holiday firms.
Google acquired the company as flight searches were one of the most popular uses of the company's search engine. "Find cheap flights" and "flight deals" remain among the most popular search terms.
Since the acquisition, Google Flights has expanded from its United States origins around the world to most European, Asian and Latin American countries, providing local language services.
As people look for their first trips after COVID, the Google Flights services continue to expand with free hotel booking for a more rounded service. It also helps passengers stay updated with travel advisories and airline safety policies.
With airline travel rebounding post-COVID and new airlines launching, they are all keen to attract passengers. But since most people simply use Google to search for flight information, Google Flights is a handy way to find that information more organised and complete the booking online.
Online travel searching and booking has never been easier. What used to take days of wading through travel agent brochures and painful form-filling can now be done in minutes. Google Flights is one of the ways to get places quickly, alongside Skyscanner, lastminute.com and others.
As people fancy a weekend in New York, a much-needed break in the Balaerics or are back on the business beat to corporate lunches in Munich or Paris, it has never been easier to find a good flight deal.
You start the process by choosing a ticket type from one-way, round-trip or multi-city flights to use Google Flights. Then, select the number of passengers and if you want to travel economy, premium, business or first class, depending on how specific or vague you want to be.
By default, the flight search engine starts with a departure city or departure airport near to you, but you can choose where you want to fly from. You can also use airport codes, region names and other search details.
If you want to find out where you can get to from your local airport, use that as the departure and type a broad term in the destination, such as Europe or Africa, to see how far you can get on a trip.
Add a travel destination and the travel dates you want to fly from the calendar. The service quickly finds a number of carriers with flights. Some search results may be from your chosen airport; others that may have fewer stops or different routes will fly from nearby airports.
These may have better flight deals, different hand luggage, travel restrictions, and you might be able to choose other preferences. In addition, the results list shows flights into the future that may be cheaper as you are booking earlier.
You can also use the Price Graph to see how prices have changed recently to get an idea of the value of your preferred ticket.
Additionally, search options include your baggage choice, flying with specific airlines, a price range, and layover stops. If you choose the Track Prices option, you will get price alerts or price changes as email notifications when prices vary over time, ideal if you are looking for a bargain flight.
When you have chosen your outbound flight and return travel dates if needed, you can choose from the available fare options provided by the airline or travel agent. Handily, Google Flight shows the luggage options or restrictions, including quarantine information if needed.
Booking options allow you to pick the various ways you can book one flight, perhaps through the airline directly or via an agent. These may have slightly different fees, with multiple benefits. Some investigation will be needed to find out the best option.
The detail also shows how the flight cost compares to other trips, so you know if you are getting a bargain or could do better and find a different flight. Once you have decided on the right flight for you, you can then book through the airline or agent site directly, with Google Flights providing all the information so that you do not have to enter it in again.
With flexibility for routes, airlines, flight schedules and results, Google Flights provides a strong user experience, whatever the route, airlines or travel agencies you end up using to find good deals.
Since COVID information is changing all the time, Google Flights provides the latest available details but reminds passengers to check with their airlines about the appropriate steps to take throughout the journey and at the destination.
Next to the Google Flights icon on the home page site is one for Google Hotels, which provides a similar service to make it quick-and-easy to book into a hotel. These are related to your flight travel query to speed up the process and provides a similar service with a range of budgets, hotel types and other essentials or luxuries.
Another icon provides a list of things to do at your destination if you want to get the low down on how to have fun after your flight.
Some passengers are happy to take the first option that comes up when using Google Flights. However, plenty of people like to feel the excitement of tracking down a bargain. So here are a few tips to get the prices.
There is no iOS or Android app for Google Flights. The mobile website works perfectly well on any device, and you can create a home page shortcut or icon for it if you are a regular user. When you book a flight, Google Flights takes you to other airline or booking apps to complete the transaction, making it is one less app to use.
Google doesn't track flights in the air, but you can use sites like flightradar24.com to monitor flights from the ground to their destination. Then, either use the map or flight search feature to find the plane; it makes an ideal way to track family on friends on their journey. Many airports also have live webcams, so you can watch the take-offs and landings if you are lucky.
Select the Track Prices option when you have picked a destination to get emails on changing flight prices, price drops and other information. Airlines provide their own flight alert and flight notifications about changes in times, travel dates and additional information, while a travel agency might provide that information too.
Your ticket is managed by the airline or booking agent and will be available via their app or sent to you digitally. Check-in, fare and booking details are all down to the airline, with Google only providing the basic products' information.
If you are not sure where you want to go, type in a country or region name in the destination for a sample search.
Google Flights will show a map of the top results and main airports around that destination with example flight prices. This can help you plan an itinerary or find somewhere of interest without leaving the website.
If you are still not sure where you would like to venture, the Google Flights home page has a mini-travel brochure on the bottom of the front page and a link to further travel ideas to provide some inspiration for your next trip.
To find the cheapest flights, you can use the Price option and move the slider down to the lowest price you wish to travel for. You should also use the Track Prices option to get emails about any changes in price or airport changes. Use the calendar to see if flights are cheaper at certain times of the year, such as out of season for tourist destinations.
If you are not sure when you want to travel, pick the earliest date from the calendar you might want to fly on a departure flight and the latest date you are likely to return. These will give you a window that you can use to narrow down a more solid schedule when you are closer to the travel time.
You can choose multi-city flights from the round trip/one-way or/multi-city drop-down menu. Or choose a flight with a set number of stops. You can also use Google Flights to show multiple tickets, which may be cheaper than a single ticket for a multi-stop flight. Finally, use the data grid to vary your schedule across the stops.
Use Google Flights to find the current trips and fares available across a range of budgets. You can use the Price Graph button to see the historical trend for prices and can filter for lower prices if you only want to see the cheapest flights.
No, Google Flights sends you to the airline or booking agent to book the flight and make any other arrangements. Instead, use Google to find cheap flights and pick the best flight options for your budget or timing needs.
Some people are worried about flying on particular aircraft, notably the Boing 737MAX, after its recent troubles and recertification. Unfortunately, Google Flights does not show what aircraft a particular airline or route is using.
You need to accept the flight and go to the airline or agent website to get that information. Or, you can look at previous flights using the Flightradar or airline sites to see what model and type of plane is used for that route. Planes are rarely changed from routes apart from technical issues or if a new model plane is introduced.
With so much money in air travel, there is huge competition among the various companies offering the best flight and airfare deals. Google Flights provides one of the simplest and efficient ways for you to do your research, but there is nothing to stop you from trying Skyscanner or one of the other sites to see if a better deal is available.
As the flight and airline industry looks to get passengers flying again, expect plenty of bargains from flight-only to package deals and wider offers. Tickets are just part of the deal with people looking for a simple way to interact with airlines and carriers.
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