While most people know Google for its powerful web searching capabilities, the tech giant also has a lesser-known yet equally convenient feature: searching for flights!
Indeed, Google Flights has quickly risen the ranks over typical OTAs (online travel agencies) to bring travelers a new and innovative way to find airfare.
After getting your travel authorization approved, it’s time for the fun part: looking up flights! This article will go over everything you need to know about Google Flights, how to use its powerful search features, and much more.
How to Use Google Flights
To start a new search, go to the Google Flights home page and type in the basics: your departure, destination, which type of ticket you’re looking for (one way, round trip, or multi-city), and the number of passengers.
Right off the bat, Google Flights has a useful feature: if you’re still not sure which airport you want to fly to (or if there are multiple airports), you can simply type in the city or region and the search engine will search all nearby airports.
This is especially convenient for places like the West Coast (“San Francisco Bay Area” on Google Flights) or places where there are many airports within driving distance of each other (such as JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark Airports in New York).
Travellers who have an open itinerary can even click the ‘Explore destinations’ button and a map will pop up with trending destinations, both domestic and international. This is an excellent way to scope out any places that you might not have thought of!
Once you’ve hit Search, you’ll get a comprehensive list of flights to your destination — the top three results are known as the ‘Best departing flights’ thanks to their price and convenience, while the rest are known as ‘Other departing flights.’
From here, travellers can narrow down their results further by choosing the number of stops, which airlines they wish to fly with, the number of bags they have, the price range, the maximum travel duration, and even emissions (eco-friendly flights).
The best part about Google Flights is the minimalistic yet visual-friendly results page: each flight denotes the airline and its logo, the departure and arrival times, the number of stops, and the total price. Once travellers click on the drop-down arrow, they’ll get more information, including a list of amenities (i.e., legroom space, WiFi availability, in-seat power outlets, and carbon emissions).
After the traveler has found their perfect flight, Google Flights will take them to the overview page, which lists the final itinerary, the airline’s baggage policy, and links to reserve the ticket. For some tickets, travellers may even see the fare options and update their seat to the main cabin, business, or first class.
Pros and Cons of Google Flights
Now that we have a basic overview of Google Flights let’s take a look at some of its pluses and minuses.
First and foremost, Google Flights combines power and simplicity to make a convenient and user-friendly experience. It’s typically faster than any other airfare search engine and can display an entire year of flights in just a few seconds.
Likewise, the design is very intuitive and easy to navigate. There are multiple ways to visualize flight results, whether it’s the full calendar, the fare grid, or the price graph.
Speaking of visuals, Google Flights’ Explore map is an excellent recent addition to the site’s repertoire and easily allows travellers to see the most budget-friendly or trending destinations that they can fly to.
A very helpful yet often underutilized tool is the ‘flight alerts’ feature. If travellers have started searching for their tickets but don’t find anything good (or within their budget), they can simply set a flight alert and be notified when prices drop.
Finally, one of the best pluses of using Google Flights is that it is absolutely free! Using the site is a cost-effective way to save money on travel planning (versus going to a travel agent), which means more money for souvenirs!
Although the website comes with a host of benefits, there are also a few cons to using Google Flights. Perhaps the biggest downside is the fact that the search engine results do not display all airlines.
In fact, Google Flights typically doesn’t show budget or low-cost airlines (such as Southwest), which means that some travellers may miss out on a good deal. The easiest way to work around this issue is to use multiple OTAs and even go directly to the budget airline’s website to find the best deals.
Like many other airfare search aggregates, Google Flights may sometimes display unavailable deals or tickets that have already sold out.
Despite a few setbacks, Google Flights is still one of the best airline search engines out there and is an excellent tool for beginner travellers and experienced jet setters.