Google Flights: Best Tool For Booking Airline Tickets

Google Flights: Best Tool For Booking Airline Tickets

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It has been many years since I’ve written about Google Flights, so I figured it’s time for an updated post. Admittedly this isn’t exactly cutting edge, as Google Flights has been around for years, and hopefully most OMAAT readers already use it. However, I figured I’d share the basics of why I find Google Flights to be valuable, and how I go about using it.

Why you should be using Google Flights

Plain and simple, Google Flights should be the first website you visit when you’re starting the process of booking an airline ticket with cash. Google Flights is great because it lets you compare fares across a wide variety of dates, allows fare tracking, and gives you all kinds of options to customize your search, which you won’t find when searching through an online travel agency or airline website.

Note that Google Flights is more of an aggregator of information than anything else. Typically when Google Flights shows you fares, you’ll get a link to either the website of an airline or to an online travel agency to book, as most fares can’t be booked directly with Google Flights. In 99% of cases I recommend booking directly with the airline, as that simplifies flight changes, schedule changes, etc.

Google Flights is best option for comparing airfare

When you go to Google Flights, it doesn’t look that different than most online travel agencies. You can enter your origin, destination, travel date, whether you’re traveling one-way or roundtrip, the number of passengers, and the class of service you want to travel in.

Google Flights search page

The first thing that makes Google Flights awesome is that when you get to the results page, you’ll immediately see a pricing calendar that shows you options for two months at a time. You can search an entire year of pricing in a given market in less than a minute.

Google Flights calendar feature

While Google Flights will show tons of options, you’ll see that “best flights” are first shown, which is based on price, convenience, and overall value. I appreciate just how much information Google Flights shows with each flight option. If a fare doesn’t include a carry-on, you’ll see that restriction listed.

Beyond that, you’ll see seat pitch on the plane, whether there’s Wi-Fi, whether there’s in seat power and USB outlets, whether there are televisions, etc. Of course keep in mind that in some cases this might not be accurate, but more often than not it is.

Google Flights results page

In some cases this information is really useful. For example, if you’re curious if your British Airways business class flight will feature Club Suites, Google Flights shows flights with Club Suites as featuring an “individual suite,” while flights without Club Suites are shown as featuring a “lie flat seat.”

Google Flights flight details
Google Flights flight details

It gets much better than that, though. Once you execute a search, you’ll see all kinds of filters. You can choose based on the number of stops, the airlines or even alliance, whether a fare includes bags, the price, the flight times, the connecting airports, or the duration. While you can’t filter out basic economy fares as such, you can filter out fares that don’t include a carry-on bag, which would cover the most punitive basic economy fares out there.

Google Flights results filters

These filters will also be applied to the calendar feature, which is one of my favorite features of Google Flights. In other words, if you want to find the cheapest nonstop flight on a given airline at a particular time of day throughout the year, you can easily do that with Google Flights.

When you select a flight, Google Flights will tell you if your fare is typical, cheap, or expensive, based on historical data. You can make of that what you will, since obviously there are a lot of factors that go into airline pricing. In other words, just because a fare is marked as expensive, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to get any cheaper.

Google Flights historical pricing data

Using Google Flights with flexible destinations

Do you just want to travel somewhere, but don’t know where? Google Flights can help with that too. Google Flights lets you search airfare from a specific origin, to an entire country, or even continent.

For example, you could enter Tampa as your origin, and the entire country of Germany, or the entire continent of Europe, as your destination. You’ll then be presented with a map that shows you all the possibilities.

Google Flights flexible destination map

If you have a better sense of where you’re looking to go, but want to choose between a few airports, Google Flights can help with that too. For example, you can enter multiple origin and destination airports, assuming you have that flexibility and are curious to compare.

Google Flights multiple airport search

Google Flights lets you track flight prices

My single favorite feature of Google Flights is the ability to track the prices of flights:

  • This is useful if you want to book a specific flight, but want to wait for the price to (hopefully) drop
  • This is useful if you’ve already booked your ticket, but are flying with an airline that doesn’t have change fees; that way you could reprice your flight, and get a voucher for the difference

Take a Miami to New York American Airlines first class flight for next spring, for example. While these tickets cost under $400 within a few weeks of departure, right now they price at $700+ several months out. So if you were interested in keeping an eye on these flights, just click the little “track prices” button, and you’ll receive an email if the price of the flight changes.

You can request price tracking for one particular flight, or for an entire day of availability between two city pairs, based on your parameters. You can set as many alerts as you’d like.

Google Flights price tracking feature

There’s then a dashboard connected to your Google account, which will also keep track of the historical price changes.

Google Flights price tracking feature

I use the Google Flights price tracking feature constantly, and it saves me a lot of money on flights.

Bottom line

Google Flights is the single most useful resource for booking airline tickets with cash. The website makes it easy to compare the price of airline tickets across months, and customize your search based on endless features, from airline, to departure time, to connecting airport. It can even be useful if you don’t know where you want to go, but want to keep your options open.

Google Flights also provides all kinds of useful details about flight amenities, from legroom, to the availability of Wi-Fi, to the type of business class seat you’ll get.

My single favorite feature of Google Flights, though, is the price tracking capability. This allows you to track how airfare changes for a particular itinerary over time. This can be useful whether you want to wait until a fare drops to book, or if you want to reprice an existing ticket, and get a voucher.

If you use Google Flights, what has your experience been like? Any important features I’m missing?

Conversations (37)
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  1. John Guest

    Google flights used to work great for the international flights from the local airport (YAM), but at some point during the covid shutdown period, it stopped finding any reasonable flights from my Sault Ste. Marie airport (YAM). I now need to specify the Toronto Airport (YTO) for departure to find global travel deals on Air Canada, and then go to Air Canada's website to find a flight from YAM to YTO. For example Google flights...

    Google flights used to work great for the international flights from the local airport (YAM), but at some point during the covid shutdown period, it stopped finding any reasonable flights from my Sault Ste. Marie airport (YAM). I now need to specify the Toronto Airport (YTO) for departure to find global travel deals on Air Canada, and then go to Air Canada's website to find a flight from YAM to YTO. For example Google flights will show a sale from Toronto to Venice Italy for say $600, but Sault to Venice will be outrageously shown at ~$3000 on the same date. If I go to Air Canada site I can book directly Sault to Venice on same dates for say $1100....still not as cheap as before Covid, but about $1900 cheaper then the best deal Google flight can find. I wish I could log a ticket with google....but who knows where to start that process in such a large company. Nov 18, 2022

  2. Jake Guest

    The BEST is Google Flights with Legrooms for Google Flights which puts the important information of legroom (or, in premium classes, whether you get flat bed, slanted beds, or just an old-style recliner) as well as whether they have TVs right on the result page.

    https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/legrooms-for-google-fligh/nhonfddkgankhjilponlbdccpabaaknp

  3. Morgan Diamond

    Great and helpful article - thanks Ben! I really should use this, I generally just use sky scanner which does the job but this seems better.

  4. Jeremy Guest

    I love the option to search an entire continent for the destination. Any idea why you can't do the same thing for origin? For example, I live in a city that is NEVER a good origin for a single international ticket so I always need to reposition. Being able to set "United States" as the origin and ICN, for example, as my destination would then find the best city to reposition to. A hugely useful feature.

  5. Schar Gold

    I choose to use KAYAK, I find it MUCH better than google flights. I use KAYAK all the time and its my first stop whenever im planning a trip. the options to customize searches are endless, clear, and organized. highly recommend!

  6. Anthony Joseph Guest

    Best tool for finding flights even with "odd" routing (eg. PDX - LHR via AUS).
    I love the "price Tracking" feature.
    But there are some things to note that are beyond Google's control:
    - Southwest Airlines completely blocks listing of their fare on Google Trips
    - I have noticed recentlythat American and Delta don't always show the best fares
    - Only complaint about the filtering on Google Trips is to...

    Best tool for finding flights even with "odd" routing (eg. PDX - LHR via AUS).
    I love the "price Tracking" feature.
    But there are some things to note that are beyond Google's control:
    - Southwest Airlines completely blocks listing of their fare on Google Trips
    - I have noticed recentlythat American and Delta don't always show the best fares
    - Only complaint about the filtering on Google Trips is to the ability to filter out the "Super Saver" fares that don't allow for seat selection, elite upgrades and/or reduced EQM's.

  7. qofmiwok Guest

    I have exclusively used google flights for years. However I find the price tracking to be useless because 99% of the time the cheap flight they send you is crappy routing at crappy times. They don't actually save your detailed parameters such as number of stops, total flight time, etc.

  8. Steve Allen Guest

    Another great thing about Google Flights is that it's FAST when compared to individual airline sites at least. This may seem like a little thing, but it is so valuable when you are trying to search multiple dates/destinations/class of service and need to refresh searches a lot.

  9. JD Guest

    I’ve used this tool for YEARS. After working for the airlines for too long, everyone always comes to me wanting my help to book a trip. When I tell friends to go to Google flights to search they sort of get a clueless look on their face‍… I just don’t get it that people can’t seem to figure it out! Thanks for this article because now I can simply pass this link on to others that explains it all!

  10. KK13 Gold

    I use both, Google Flights and Skyscanner. I prefer Skyscanner while booking international flights. They have better prices, options and library for 3rd party vendors (including directly from Airlines) selling tickets.

  11. Jimbo1 New Member

    I have used Google Flights extensively over the past 10 years and am glad to be reassured by Ben that it's the best search engine. A few additional points:

    1. Pro: Two of my favorite "features" of Google Flights are the fact that the pages are not littered with annoying banner ads, and search results are very fast, allowing me to fly through a dozen or so searches/tabs in seconds.
    2. Pro: The mini-calendar...

    I have used Google Flights extensively over the past 10 years and am glad to be reassured by Ben that it's the best search engine. A few additional points:

    1. Pro: Two of my favorite "features" of Google Flights are the fact that the pages are not littered with annoying banner ads, and search results are very fast, allowing me to fly through a dozen or so searches/tabs in seconds.
    2. Pro: The mini-calendar results include filters that you've already chosen, which is very helpful when doing a variable-date for a specific airline/alliance, number of stops, etc. I've used this to find, e.g., when United resumes their direct SFO-KIX route, or which days are affected by holiday pricing.
    3. (Major) Con: My biggest problem is that my push and email notifications for tracked flights have been broken for months. Others have been having this problem as well, and it's forced me to start considering SkyScanner as an alternative. Hell, I'll even pay a subscription fee, because, as Ben noted, price tracking can save you hundreds.
    4. Con: Basic economy is not always filtered out when applying the carry-on bag filter, particularly for routes with an international leg. I wish there were a straightforward way to ignore basic economy flights, or at least hide those results by default.
    5. Con: It does not do a great job of finding hacker/split/separate-ticket fares, even with that filter on. This is particularly true with international flights. I always end up searching many individual routes that intersect at a large hub and building my own "hacker" itinerary. E.g., for SFO-BKK, search SFO-SIN-SFO to get United's rate, and then search SIN-(BKK,DMK)-SIN to get a cheap puddle-jumper on the second leg.

  12. Bob Guest

    Contrary to what's stated in the article, there actually is a limit of 100 flights you can track. Also Google Flights tracks old itineraries as well, so if you're close to the limit, scroll down to the bottom of the tracking page, click on "past flights" and delete those to give you more options of flights to track.

  13. riku2 Guest

    Sites like this don't normally work well with premium economy unless it's a single premium economy flight. This is because short haul connecting flights for premium economy tickets are booked into economy. So searching HEL-KUL does not find any flights on CX because CX don't fly to Helsinki. There would be an economy connecting flight in europe before a CX flight to HKG and that causes the algorithm some trouble because it wants to find...

    Sites like this don't normally work well with premium economy unless it's a single premium economy flight. This is because short haul connecting flights for premium economy tickets are booked into economy. So searching HEL-KUL does not find any flights on CX because CX don't fly to Helsinki. There would be an economy connecting flight in europe before a CX flight to HKG and that causes the algorithm some trouble because it wants to find a premium economy flight INSIDE Europe first.

  14. DCK Guest

    Is there a simple method to find out an airlines' "seasonal flight" schedule? Google flights lists Austrian Air with a seasonal nonstop flight to Vienna, which would be much easier than connection somewhere in Europe after flying about 10 hours. I looked on Austrian's website and couldn't find any information.

  15. Donna Diamond

    I’ve used it for years primarily for flights within Europe. Saves a lot of time finding nonstop, convenient, inexpensive connections.

  16. Nicolas Guest

    It is worth mentionning that some airlines are not on google flights or expedia or else...or the flight appears but without price information so it disappears when you filter. It happens to be with Uzbekistan Airways and Capo Verde Airlines, also many chartered flights are not listed or very tiny airlines operating sea planes. So if i go to a remote place, i just check the wikipedia page of the airport i want to go,...

    It is worth mentionning that some airlines are not on google flights or expedia or else...or the flight appears but without price information so it disappears when you filter. It happens to be with Uzbekistan Airways and Capo Verde Airlines, also many chartered flights are not listed or very tiny airlines operating sea planes. So if i go to a remote place, i just check the wikipedia page of the airport i want to go, that usually helps to find an obscure regional airline with a 10-seats plane :)

  17. Sco Guest

    I've tried to use Google Flights many times but I've found it mostly useless because of the lack of flexibility. Using the flexible destination, I always think I've found a cheap fare, but then it has a 36-hour layover or something that you don't see until clicking all the way through and then there's no way to strip that from the search results. It also drives me crazy that you can filter by alliance but...

    I've tried to use Google Flights many times but I've found it mostly useless because of the lack of flexibility. Using the flexible destination, I always think I've found a cheap fare, but then it has a 36-hour layover or something that you don't see until clicking all the way through and then there's no way to strip that from the search results. It also drives me crazy that you can filter by alliance but not airline.

    I still find ITASoftware with time bar view to be by far the best tool for finding flights to book.

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      “there's no way to strip that from the search results”

      Sure there is. You can filter on total travel time.

      “It also drives me crazy that you can filter by alliance but not airline.”

      Of course you can. You can choose any combination of airlines.

      Of course these options only exist after the initial search. Is that what you’re whining about?

    2. Jimbo1 New Member

      I believe for international flights and in "Explore" mode, the airline filter is limited to airline alliances. For domestic flights, you can definitely filter on individual airlines.

    3. Jimbo1 New Member

      Correction: International flight searches allow you to filter on individual airlines. Only in "Explore" mode have I seen the airline filter limited to alliances.

  18. Ralph4878 Guest

    I love using Google Flights to compare fares across dates, airlines, etc..,. I've noticed, however, some issues with "phantom" fares. For example, I'm looking for a paid one way ticket CHI-DPS in early March, either in J or PE (already have a J reward ticket for it out of EWR on Singapore with a paid positioning flight the day before, but I don't really want to do this if I don't have to). For months...

    I love using Google Flights to compare fares across dates, airlines, etc..,. I've noticed, however, some issues with "phantom" fares. For example, I'm looking for a paid one way ticket CHI-DPS in early March, either in J or PE (already have a J reward ticket for it out of EWR on Singapore with a paid positioning flight the day before, but I don't really want to do this if I don't have to). For months now, I keep coming up with $1,200 and change PE fares with DL, but when I go to book on Delta's website, the price inevitably changes after I enter my credit card information. This has happened with some code share fares I've seen as well (specifically with AA on QR metal...).

  19. Bob Guest

    Many times the results show a cheaper fare but with OTA's that I have never heard of. Googling reviews of these OTA's sometimes yields no info. Then I ponder if I want to save a few $ with these possibly dodgy companies or pay more and book with the operating airline. Hmmm. What do you guys do?

  20. Rob Guest

    If you use Google Flights, don't forget to add the Chrome extension "Legrooms for Google Flights" which, as it states, adds seat pitch information to all displayed flights. Takes Google Flights to another level.

  21. Mike Guest

    FYI GoogleFlights shows different prices depending on what device you are using, your location, and if you are logged in, etc. They make money on referral fees to airlines so their results are a bit biased. I highly recommend using a free browser extension like https://planmoretrips.com to cross-check the price against other travel sites to make sure you are actually getting the lowest price. Sometimes the price difference can be upwards of 10%.

  22. Nancy Guest

    I've noticed that if you use Goggle's link to book directly with an airline you get a different price then if you go directly into the airline to book it, at least with United. Google's is cheaper.

  23. DCharlie Guest

    I also like the fact that I can select multiple departure or arrival airports and compare the flights and costs. It was very useful for someone like me, who lived equidistant from CVG, CLE, DAY and IND.

  24. Robert Guest

    What's the best way to removing basic economy from the search results? That's been easily the biggest detractor to using it more than I do

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Robert -- While you can't filter out basic economy as such, you can filter out fares that don't include carry-ons, which covers the most punitive types of basic economy tickets.

    2. David Guest

      I agree with Robert - absolutely hate BE fares as I travel with kids and need a way to factor in seat selection cost so we can sit together. Has anyone found a way to do that? Thanks.

    3. Robert Guest

      That's a great idea, hadn't thought of that!

    4. Schar Gold

      I recommend you switch to using KAYAK instead, MUCH better and you can easily filter out Basic Economy on the left hand side toolbar.

  25. The nice Paul Guest

    I use it a lot — it’s usually my starting point in planning trips — but it has limitations. One is its tendency to try to force you to route via the US.

    I was in Buenos Aires for work and needed to get to Tokyo. I fancied the Air New Zealand flight to Auckland, a stopover for a couple of nights, then JAL or someone direct to Tokyo. But no matter how I tried...

    I use it a lot — it’s usually my starting point in planning trips — but it has limitations. One is its tendency to try to force you to route via the US.

    I was in Buenos Aires for work and needed to get to Tokyo. I fancied the Air New Zealand flight to Auckland, a stopover for a couple of nights, then JAL or someone direct to Tokyo. But no matter how I tried to bend it to my will, Google refused to accept that I didn’t want to transit via the US. The route I wanted could only be created from individual legs.

    I had a similar experience in trying to get from Santiago via Sydney on the direct Qantas flight, then onwards to Delhi.

    (All of this was pre-Covid: half those flights don’t exist anymore. Thus fuelling flat-earther conspiracy theorists, who argue that Southern Hemisphere trans-oceanic flights aren’t scheduled because, well, the Earth is flat, so such flights aren’t possible…)

    1. MRMer Guest

      I have had good luck with choosing the stopover airports, which for international flights, can be an extensive list of options. Did this not work?

    2. The nice Paul Guest

      It does not (or didn’t).

      I suspect it’s a bit like Expedia which (over here) claims to be a .co.uk site but then insists there are no flights to Cuba because it’s actually just a US site pretending to be British.

      (I haven’t checked that recently, either, so my whine may be out of date.)

    3. MidSouthSkier Community Ambassador

      Did you try inputting the search as a multi-city flight? Look for Santiago-Sydney and then Sydney-Delhi on the same date (or date+1) should do it.

      My city has a mid-sized airport so I always have to connect for international flights and I often fly out via Chicago. Most search engines want to put me on the flight to ORD that will have me arriving 1-1.5 hours ahead of the international leg. But if something were...

      Did you try inputting the search as a multi-city flight? Look for Santiago-Sydney and then Sydney-Delhi on the same date (or date+1) should do it.

      My city has a mid-sized airport so I always have to connect for international flights and I often fly out via Chicago. Most search engines want to put me on the flight to ORD that will have me arriving 1-1.5 hours ahead of the international leg. But if something were to go wrong with that plane it's not like there are extra UA & AA planes sitting around they can substitute. So I prefer to allow enough time that if my flight goes mechanical (or weather or whatever) that there's another UA and/or AA flight that I could be put on and still make my connection in ORD. Google flights can build that and pass it over to the airline's website.

      The only issue I've had with doing that was on this last trip I booked MEM-ORD-ZRH-FLR with first leg on UA and other two legs on LX. Google Flights passed the ZRH-FLR flight number to UA as the UA codeshare number and that leg kept dropping off. Luckily got a good UA agent who figured out if she'd change the flight number to the LX flight number then the LX system would stop rejecting it.

    4. The nice Paul Guest

      Of course multi-city works. But you’ve missed the point: if I don’t know a route exists, I can’t ask Google flights to search for it using the multi-city function.

      Example: when I asked it for a Buenos Aires to Tokyo, the only one-stop options it offered were via the US. So how would I know to ask for a multi-city itinerary via Auckland? In fact, I’d already used “flight times from” on ordinary Google...

      Of course multi-city works. But you’ve missed the point: if I don’t know a route exists, I can’t ask Google flights to search for it using the multi-city function.

      Example: when I asked it for a Buenos Aires to Tokyo, the only one-stop options it offered were via the US. So how would I know to ask for a multi-city itinerary via Auckland? In fact, I’d already used “flight times from” on ordinary Google so I could ask for the specific flight.

      The US-centrism is especially tiresome for those of us who are not US passport-holders, for the reasons Ben refers to in his recent post about clearing US immigration. Which, incidentally, I found to be laughably optimistic (up to 1 hour queues for immigration? Last week I had a 2 hour queue just to reach an immigration officer in Dulles. You know, the main airport of that nation’s capital city, which you might have expected to cater for large numbers of overseas visitors).

      Rule 1 for “aliens”: never transit via the USA if you can possibly avoid it.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Schar Gold

I choose to use KAYAK, I find it MUCH better than google flights. I use KAYAK all the time and its my first stop whenever im planning a trip. the options to customize searches are endless, clear, and organized. highly recommend!

2
JD Guest

I’ve used this tool for YEARS. After working for the airlines for too long, everyone always comes to me wanting my help to book a trip. When I tell friends to go to Google flights to search they sort of get a clueless look on their face‍… I just don’t get it that people can’t seem to figure it out! Thanks for this article because now I can simply pass this link on to others that explains it all!

2
Jimbo1 New Member

I have used Google Flights extensively over the past 10 years and am glad to be reassured by Ben that it's the best search engine. A few additional points: 1. Pro: Two of my favorite "features" of Google Flights are the fact that the pages are not littered with annoying banner ads, and search results are very fast, allowing me to fly through a dozen or so searches/tabs in seconds. 2. Pro: The mini-calendar results include filters that you've already chosen, which is very helpful when doing a variable-date for a specific airline/alliance, number of stops, etc. I've used this to find, e.g., when United resumes their direct SFO-KIX route, or which days are affected by holiday pricing. 3. (Major) Con: My biggest problem is that my push and email notifications for tracked flights have been broken for months. Others have been having this problem as well, and it's forced me to start considering SkyScanner as an alternative. Hell, I'll even pay a subscription fee, because, as Ben noted, price tracking can save you hundreds. 4. Con: Basic economy is not always filtered out when applying the carry-on bag filter, particularly for routes with an international leg. I wish there were a straightforward way to ignore basic economy flights, or at least hide those results by default. 5. Con: It does not do a great job of finding hacker/split/separate-ticket fares, even with that filter on. This is particularly true with international flights. I always end up searching many individual routes that intersect at a large hub and building my own "hacker" itinerary. E.g., for SFO-BKK, search SFO-SIN-SFO to get United's rate, and then search SIN-(BKK,DMK)-SIN to get a cheap puddle-jumper on the second leg.

2
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