A powerful and innovative search engine, Google is also the world's most comprehensive database for flight searches. Google Flights is changing the way travellers search for, compare, and book flights all around the world.
Since its launch in 2011, Google Flights’s streamlined and user-friendly interface makes searching for one-way, round-trip or multi-city trips simple, even for first-time users.
Unlike OTAs (online travel agents) Google Flights has several features and filters to explore and combine. You not only find the best deal but the most convenient flight to suit your travel needs. What’s more, Google Flights doesn’t include any hidden fees or extra charges. The prices Google Flights displays are inclusive of all fees and taxes, so you know you’re getting an accurate and reliable price on your flights.
The best part? Travel credit card holders can use its features to look for and book award trips.
- How to find a flight with Google Flights
- Useful Google Flights filters
- Booking your flight
- How can Google Flights save you money?
- Using Google Flights to book reward travel
- Frequently asked questions about Google Flights
How to find a flight with Google Flights
To book travel through Google Flights, begin by opening up a browser window and heading to Google Flights’ home page. In the search bar, you can choose one-way, roundtrip or multi-city trips.
Just type in the kind of trip you’re looking for. You can enter your travel details, like the departing city, destination, how many passengers etc. Google Flights allows you to plug in a destination and it will show you all the possible arrivals to that city. For example, if you’re flying into New York, type ‘New York’ instead of JFK airport. Google Flights will compare the prices of flights landing at both JFK, Newark and LaGuardia airports. It can save you money.
Alternatively, you can even make a very broad selection and enter a country like Mexico or even an entire region like Europe to see a full list of available flights. If you have some flexibility when it comes to where you want to travel, this feature will be pretty useful. You can browse destinations within your price range.
Google Flights displays available options on its familiar map grid so you can zoom in on specific regions and look at them more closely. The screen displays a list of search results to the left of the map view and includes more information such as flight time and the number of stops. Those details aren't immediately visible on the map view.
Directly beneath the search engine, you'll find filters that Google Flights uses to search for flights that suit your needs.
Useful Google Flights filters
Useful filters include:
- Price : enter a maximum you’re willing to spend.
- Duration: some cheap flights come with flight paths so complicated that the journey takes days. You can filter these out and limit your total travel time to something more reasonable.
- Number of stops: choose any number, look for direct flights only or limit the number of stops to one or two. Google flights will also warn if a layover is especially long or overnight.
- Airline: ask Google Flights to only show you flights available with your preferred airline or eliminate certain airlines entirely. This is a great feature if you’re booking award travel or if there’s an airline you want to avoid.
- Alliance: this is especially useful when using points on your travel credit cards to book award travel.
- Departure time
- Arrival time
- Bags: avoid surprises at the check-out. Apply this filter so Google Flights will show you the total price after factoring in baggage fees.
- Connecting airports.
- Emissions: so you can choose a low-emission flight.
Simply plug in your criteria and let Google Flights do the rest. If you de-select the default ‘flights only’ filter, you can also check out destinations that can be reached by bus or car.
Filter by interest
Google Flights will also allow you to filter by your interests, such as beaches or museums so that it shows you destinations that have what you're looking for.
While Google Flights is a great way to find affordable flights, it’s important to note that Google Flights won’t necessarily show you the cheapest flight first. Instead, it will show you what it thinks is the ‘best’ flight, meaning it takes things like departure times and the number of stops into consideration (if you’ve not applied those filters yourself) to present what it thinks is the most convenient option.
However, all available flights are listed and you can customize the filters to see flights that match your criteria. For example, if you’re looking for longer layover times, you can expand to see the full list of available options. Alternatively, you can apply the price filter to see the most affordable flights displayed first.
Booking your flight
The Google Flights tool is one of the best for finding cheap flights. Since it is not an OTA, you cannot book flights directly from the site.
When you find the right flight and are ready to book, click ‘Continue’ on your preferred flight and you will be redirected to either the airline's website or to an OTA’s website to finalize your booking.
Don’t worry, you won’t need to start the search all over again. Google Flights will take you directly to the payment processing page. From there, simply enter your personal and payment information, and you’re all set.
Google Flights shows you booking options ranked not just by price, but also by the quality of the link and other users' experience. In the example below, it’s actually $2.00 cheaper to book a flight from Vancouver to Cabo San Lucas through the OTA Go to Gate. However, Flair airlines ranks higher. Customers would likely rather spend $2.00 for an easier, smoother experience.
How can Google Flights save you money?
Let’s talk about the many ways Google Flights can save you money on your next trip.
In addition to providing access to a large database of flight information, Google Flights also allows you to compare flight information from multiple airlines at once. Also, unlike OTAs that charge hidden processing and commission fees, Google Flights does not charge customers any extra fees. This doesn’t really save you money, since you can’t technically book through Google Flights, but it’s good to know that what you see on Google Flights is exactly what you get, inclusive of all taxes and fees.
Sometimes, but not always, booking through an OTA is even cheaper than booking directly through the airline. This is because OTAs hope that, since you’ve saved money on your flight, you will be more likely to book add-ons like car rentals and hotels. OTAs make their money by collecting a commission through the airline or hotel chain. When they sell discounted flights, which are often offered by the airline exclusively for the OTA, they aim to incentivize customers to book through them again.
Google Flights collects up-to-date information from OTAs, major airlines and some smaller airlines, then takes all of the data at hand and compares it to show you the latest and most reliable prices available.
Google Flights can also save you money by ‘telling’ you when to book and when it might be worth it to hold off a bit longer. Integrated historical and forward-thinking data fuels Google Flights, so it can tell you if the cost of any given flight is typical, higher or lower than normal.
It predicts trends in pricing. If it tells you that the price is higher than normal, it can show you when it might be expected to drop and by how much to a relatively high degree of certainty. On the search results page, in between the best flights and other available flights, there will be a drop-down menu, which indicates whether or not prices are typical. If you click the arrow, you will be able to see price history going back two months.
If the price is much lower than normal, you know you’ve stumbled upon a great deal, and if it’s too high you can use two tools to look ahead and see when a better time might be to book.
Both tools are on the search results page. The ‘Date Grid’ shows you how much your flight cost on any given day. This is a useful tool, especially if you’re flexible with your travel dates because you could potentially save a couple of hundred dollars by slightly altering your departure or return by just a day or two.
The ‘Price Graph’ icon shows you trends in pricing. It’s easier to see trends over a longer period of time here, which is handy if you’re booking travel weeks or months in advance.
If you find a flight but want to wait and book it when the price is predicted to drop, you can ask Google Flights to track it for you, and you will be automatically updated whenever the price changes. Google Flights will also send you travel tips if you’ve asked it to track a flight for you.
Another way Google Flights can help you save money is by comparing ticket booking options when planning multi-city trips. If you enter multiple destinations, Google Flights will compare all possible combinations. It wants to determine if it is cheaper to book tickets for your entire trip all at once or if it better to book your flights one at a time. Often, booking together is simpler and cheaper, but not always. The Google Flights algorithm makes it easy to find ways to save.
Using Google Flights to book reward travel
There are no filters that can show you flights specifically for award trave. Still, there are many ways that you can put your points to use using Google Flights. You will just need to do your own research. While you can’t search for award trips using Google Flights, you can take advantage of its many tools, filters and features. In that sense, Google Flights is a great alternative to an Expert Flyer or Flight Connections subscription,
What is reward travel?
Reward or award travel simply refers to tickets purchased using accumulated points. Air Miles is one popular way to collect travel reward points. But there are also a number of travel credit cards that give customers the chance to earn reward points. You can use those points to purchase airline tickets, upgrade to first-class or business class, access the first-class lounge or wave baggage fees.
One way you can use Google Flights to find award trips is by using the filters to conduct route research. Because Google Flights has access to various airline schedules, you can plan your trip within the parameters of your travel credit card’s reward system.
For example, applying the ‘Stops’ filter lets you only see non-stop flights or flights with one-stop or fewer. Then you can combine the ‘Alliance’ filter to make sure that your connecting flight is with a partner airline. So, for example, if you’re an Aeroplan member and want to use your points to book travel with one-stop and one connecting flight. You can limit the options Google Flights shows you to other airlines that are part of the Star Alliance.
Since you can customize your trip duration, you can even extend that one-stop into a long layover and use the downtime to check out a new city or even an entirely new country. A long layover in Singapore, for example, can easily turn into a mini-vacation of its own, since getting to the city centre from the Changi airport is remarkably easy.
Google Flights and seat selection
Google Flights helps you find what kind of seat is available on a flight that you’re considering. Not all seats are claimable with points. Find out your travel credit card’s reward seat system . Then, do a little digging on the airline's website to find out which seats are available. Then compare with what is being offered on Google Flights in order to determine if this points eligible.
Google Flights can also help you snag a last-minute deal on award seats. Use the ‘Number of Passengers’ filter and enter 5 passengers. If results appear, then you know your odds of finding a deal are good.
Finally, one major way Google Flights helps you save money on award travel is by letting you compare the cost of your flight to the value of your reward points. It’s easy to calculate the value of your points. Simply multiply the cost of the ticket by 100. Then, divide that number by the number of points you would need to redeem for the ticket. If the value is high, then cashing in your points makes sense. If the value is quite low, then you might want to consider paying cash for this ticket instead. As an added incentive, you can book using your travel credit card and earn even more points.
Travelling for less is easy when you use your travel credit card's rewards system. You spend a lot of time and effort figuring out how to make your reward points work for you. Google Flights helps you extend those savings even further. It helps you determine that you’re getting the best value available for the money you do spend.
Frequently asked questions about Google Flights
Google Flights is a powerful search engine that helps you find, compare and book flights all around the world. It works similarly to OTAs like Sky Scanner, Expedia and Travelocity. But unlike those sites, it is not involved with the booking process. It merely finds the information for you so you can make an informed decision. The prices reflected on Google Flights are more accurate than on those other sites because there are no hidden commissions or booking fees included.
Another great thing about Google Flights is that you can use it to get suggestions for things to do when you get to the destination. With the ‘Explore’ tab, you can view areas nearby or plan your travel based on your travel availability. This way, you can use Google Flights for inspiration. In addition to booking air travel, you can look for available hotels or vacation rentals through Google Flights.
The prices on Google Flights are inclusive of taxes and fees. While you cannot book travel directly through Google Flights, you can begin the process by clicking ‘Select’. It will redirect you to the booking agent when you are ready to confirm your choice. That might be the airline itself or an OTA.
Since this is a Google product, it follows trends closely and can tell you if the price of your flight is normal, low or high. You can also use the graph view, which predicts how much the price is expected to drop pretty accurately. So, if you’ve found a flight but aren’t ready to book it right away, you can always track it. Just be ready to book when the price drops.
After selecting your flight, look for an icon in the top right corner labelled ‘Track Prices’. Toggle it on and Google Flights will automatically send you an email when the price fluctuates. That’s it.
To manage your tracked flights, look for a subsection titled ‘Tracked Prices’. Click on ‘View All’ to see all the flights that Google Flights is tracking for you. You can remove the flight if you don’t want to track it anymore, turn off the notifications, or book the flight once the price has dropped.
If you want to see the prices in a different currency, simply go to the Google Flights home page and scroll to the very bottom. There you will see a drop-down menu. Click on it to select and change the currency.
You can also customize your location and language. These are handy features for ex-pats or people on extended holidays.
Yes, the Google Flights database works just as well as Google’s search engine. Google Flights uses algorithms that compare and contrast all available data from multiple airlines, OTAs and other information sources. This gives reliable, accurate and up-to-date prices whenever you search.
In fact, in the fall of 2019, Google Flights was so confident in its accuracy that it launched its ‘Price Guarantee’ program. If a customer booked a flight and the price dropped more than the software predicted, Google Flights refunded the difference.
While Google Flights is a great tool for finding cheap flights, you cannot get pricing information for every flight on the site. Google Flights only displays information if it has permission from the airline. If you want to make sure you’re paying the absolute best fare, you might have to do a bit of digging yourself.
There are some smaller airlines, as well as a few major ones that don’t want their prices published anywhere other than their own websites. This includes
Available flights will be listed. However, you’ll need to search for them on the airline’s own website in order to see the prices.
About The Author: Emma Martin
Emma Martin writes about the curiosities of finance. Her obsession with cryptocurrency keeps her writing most days about the best exchanges and wallets, and the wild world of NFTs. Her favourite exchanges right now are Bitbuy, NDAX, and VirgoCX.
Emma also invests in the stock market using Wealthsimple Trade. Other than crypto, Emma spends her time with her dog Brutus and shopping online with her Mastercard® KOHO Prepaid Card.
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