Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Debut of Google Flights

Twitter is ablaze with talk of Google's latest foray into the travel sphere, GoogleFlights.

Peer pressure. I had to give it a try. Some thoughts:

Speed: This appears to be the cheetah of air flight engines, with near simultaneous search results. Enter your date and proposed destinations and then don't blink: in front of you will be a long list of options, ordered by time of departure (other filters can be applied to shape the search results). That being said, the cheapest flights, during my first search, didn't come up until a few minutes into my search. I'd input an early October itinerary between New York and Dallas, and the cheapest options (Continental for $206 round-trip) weren't readily viewable. This might have been a fluke or a bug they'll be fixing.

Another nice touch: one can change the date and the system adjusts in seconds, rather than having to reboot.

Flexibility: From the current template, it doesn't look like Google will be able to handle requests for multi-stop itineraries as Kayak.com and Momondo.com now do. Also, according to the New York Times its only searching the engines of the airlines, and not of airfare discounters which might be a drawback for real bargain hunters.

Design: Pretty nice (like the map!), though I prefer the jauntiness and compact format of Hipmunk, which uses different colors for the various airlines, and creates a chart which shows, in the first results, the length of layovers.

Special features: Do travelers care which airport they transfer through? Its not high on my list of priorities, but those who give a damn will like Google's filter, the only one that I know of that allows travelers to only see flights that transfer through their preferred hubs. Another filter allows fliers to see flights by length of layover, a truly handy innovation (particularly for thos travelers who have to fly from delay-ridden airports).

Deal finding ability: Hard to tell at this point, as the engine is only covering a few, key American gateways. I ran a few searches and it matched--though didn't undercut--prices I found on Hipmunk and Momondo.

I guess this one's a wait-and-see. But congratulations to the industrious folks at Google on the launch.

6 comments:

  1. There are a lot of nice features in the new Google Flight Search.I was impressed at their start.

    One thing I've noticed is the lack of reporting on an Air fare search sites or Aggregator sites,after initial reviews.Some have changed in my opinion for the worse, but still are getting great reviews.No questions or research is really being done by most reporters.

    Travel Rob

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  2. Interesting observation Rob. I'm wondering why you think they've changed for the worse? Frankly, that's not my observation; I've found that most have refined and expanded their offerings over the years, improving the customer experience. Wondering if you have any examples you'd be willing to share.

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  3. Hi Paulinne,

    I did share some info but somehow it didnt post.

    Basically I think some Aggregators put the travel agent sites that pay them a higher commission at the top of their search results.Some of those sites get bad ratings from the BBB, so the buyer has to be careful.

    If a Aggregator gets bought out or changes CEO I do think that effects how those companies display fares.The pressure to post those high commission sites is even greater.

    As for the companies that use ITA software,they are missing airlines like the European Budgets.
    Last year if you used just those sites,one would of missed all the bargain Iceland Express flights to Europe. Travel Rob

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  4. Globalize Travel Incorporated. Tomorrow Facebook will aquire booking.com, in the meantime google gets its hands on expedia. Microsoft will soon follow getting tripadvisor and amazon will have orbitz. This is the future, going on bytes per second. New trends, old habbits :D

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