If you do a lot of traveling, you’re no doubt familiar with services like Kayak and Hipmunk that let you quickly and painlessly book flights on the cheap. This past Tuesday, Google threw it’s hat into yet another ring with a relatively quiet launch of Google Flight Search.
Built right into the search engine (as many Google apps are), Flight Search lets you search using standard terms like “flights from Cincinnati to San Francisco” to access a customizable list of flight results. But how does it stack up to the tried and true competitors in the realm of flight search engines?
Punch your starting location and your destination (or, if you’re feeling adventurous, leave out the destination) into Google and click on the Flights tab on the left side of the page.
In the case of other flight search engines, you might plan on allowing some time here for the service to crawl through the Internet searching for flights and deals for you. Google, however, does it instantly.
And it’s as easy as that. If you see a result you like, simply click on it, select a return flight and book it. But what if you don’t immediately see a satisfactory flight?
In most cases, you won’t immediately find a flight that is most suitable for your trip. So you bust out the filters that Google provides to refine and sort your search results. Are the travel dates the most important part of your trip? Click on the calendar icon next to the dates field to open the calendar and drag the handles to change the length of your trip. Prices update instantly, and the bar graph shows you how prices change depending on how much wiggle room you give your time frame.
Flying on a budget? Google Flights Search can put a priority on prices, too. Click the graph icon next to the duration field and use the x/y sliders to find a flight that matches your preferred budget and total trip duration.
Finally, in the event that you were feeling adventurous or are generally ambivalent about where you go, you can use Google’s interactive map to choose a destination. Click on the famed pin icon next to the departure and arrival locations field to open the map. Prices displayed next to destination cities allow for you to plan and budget accordingly.
I think this is a really neat feature that other sites like Hipmunk and Kayak lack. Suppose I have a week off work to go on vacation, and I want to travel for less than $500. I can simply input the information I have and Google will match me with flights to places I might like to go.
The Google Advantage
Speed. That’s it, plain and simple. Sure, it helps to have a service like Flight Search built into one of the worlds most visited search engines. But what makes Flight Search stand out among the others is that everything uses the same technology that’s behind Google’s instant search. This means that your initial query for flights between two cities, your filters for price, layover, duration, or timeframe, and your selection of outbound and return flights all happens instantaneously.
Google Flights Search has a way to go before it will become a viable replacement for the more fully featured services like Kayak and Hipmunk. The service currently only supports a handful of cities and major airlines, but as the search giant is wont to do, it’s probably a safe bet that Google will continue rolling out support for more cities and airlines in the coming weeks.