Google Flights: Best Tool For Booking Airline Tickets

Google Flights: Best Tool For Booking Airline Tickets

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Google Flights is probably the single most useful resource for researching and tracking flight prices. 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. It’s one of the tools that I find most useful for travel planning, along with AwardWallet, ExpertFlyer, point.me, Seats.aero, MaxMyPoint, aeroLOPA, and more.

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 (21)
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  1. dee Guest

    What is with the CO2 crap listing on google ?? who cares

  2. Jinxed_K Guest

    Google flights usually is my first stop to give me options for a first time destination or for booking a positioning flight to connect to an award flight outside my home airport.
    I get a general overview of carriers and prices, if I have to connect or if there's a direct, etc..
    Then I will go to each individual carrier that services the destination and see what fits my preferred days/times/service class.

  3. Øyvind Guest

    My contribution to the field of flight search is PanFlights. With it you can search truly flexibly. It has popular things like filtered price calendars and explore maps.

    A custom range of dates can be used to populate the map. So you are not limited to a fixed date or month. There's also a departures map, sort of like a "reverse explore map".

    Not only the price is shown in those maps. For connected...

    My contribution to the field of flight search is PanFlights. With it you can search truly flexibly. It has popular things like filtered price calendars and explore maps.

    A custom range of dates can be used to populate the map. So you are not limited to a fixed date or month. There's also a departures map, sort of like a "reverse explore map".

    Not only the price is shown in those maps. For connected flights the travel duration is also included. City markers are color coded, making it easier to spot your best options.

  4. Schar Diamond

    I find using KAYAK soooooo much better than Google Flights. Better interface and great options to search across airlines with endless customization search options. Kayak is the way to go!

    1. Jimbo1 Member

      Kayak is too clunky/slow and filled with ads. While it's possible that it finds some results that GF doesn't, I generally don't trust search engines that are overloaded with ads. GF is very streamlined and fast, which allows me to zip through a ton of searches on different browser tabs in seconds. I often leave the tabs open for days or weeks to repeat my searches; if I did this with Kayak, my computer's memory might be exhausted, or the browser might just crash.

  5. howard Guest

    how often is Google flight wrong looking at a flight now HIR to SFO shows $2595 click through to fiji air comes up $3200

  6. Noa Guest

    You cannot set as many alerts as you want

    The limit is 100 unfortunately

    1. Jimbo1 Member

      Agree that this is annoying. I always have to manually delete alerts for flights in the past. I can see why those could be useful, it would be nice if there were an option to automatically delete them.

  7. Guflyer Guest

    Sometimes, Google flights shows the lowest fare coming from a third party website instead of the airline. I often get skeptical about booking though this site. I generally use Google flights as my initial search for things despite this.

  8. Jake Guest

    Google flights is invaluable for people like me, who do not have the time nor the inclination to spend hours searching for flights. I did notice that Chase’s portal sometimes show better options that don’t appear on Google Flights. I use the two in parallel and have been satisfied with the outcomes.

  9. Daniel Guest

    Google Flights is nice to get the basic pricing, but I never rely solely on it.
    As others have pointed out already, it doesn't always show the whole inventory. I regularly notice it for flights from Europe to Taiwan, where EVA flights are either missing or shown at a considerably higher price than they actually cost on EVA's website. I have to add that even ITA Matrix (owned by Google) doesn't show the correct...

    Google Flights is nice to get the basic pricing, but I never rely solely on it.
    As others have pointed out already, it doesn't always show the whole inventory. I regularly notice it for flights from Europe to Taiwan, where EVA flights are either missing or shown at a considerably higher price than they actually cost on EVA's website. I have to add that even ITA Matrix (owned by Google) doesn't show the correct prices as well though.
    For other airlines on those routes I found it to be pretty accurate, give or take 10%.

    What really annoys me though is their lack of proper bag filtering. They have the "bags" filter, but I can only choose the amount of carry-on bags, not the checked bags. That way, on Economy routes you always get LCC first even if including a bag would make them significantly more expensive.

    In the end, I use Google Flights mostly to get an impression of the overall price and cheap travel days, but still have to check each relevant airline's website individually afterwards.

  10. maj Guest

    Google is ok for an overview but ITA Matrix is way more powerful, especially if you need to know the class of booking for earning potential on a particular fare. Some airlines also seem to block booking through affiliate links or direct links on Google (looking at you AF/KL) even though the fare is still available in the inventory. Pairing the Matrix with the Powertools add-on you can build your fare and feed it directly...

    Google is ok for an overview but ITA Matrix is way more powerful, especially if you need to know the class of booking for earning potential on a particular fare. Some airlines also seem to block booking through affiliate links or direct links on Google (looking at you AF/KL) even though the fare is still available in the inventory. Pairing the Matrix with the Powertools add-on you can build your fare and feed it directly to the airline booking engine, or some other OTA, infinitely better than Google.

  11. Bart Guest

    Although GF is also my go-to, in my experience they exclude other airports from my region's code (ie NYC) when booking a return flight option. So although they will show all outbound flights (JFK, EWR, LGA), the inbound flights options will ONLY show the airport that matches my outbound flight. WTF google?!?!

    1. Jimbo1 Member

      Personally, for domestic flights, I always search and book one-way tickets. This makes cancellations and changes less complicated, and I find that it also opens up some different routes that are not found in round-trip searches. For international flights, I break up my search by starting with a round-trip flight to my preferred airline's non-stop destinations, and then from there to my ultimate destination. This strategy again reveals more routes/options than a single, end-to-end search.

      Personally, for domestic flights, I always search and book one-way tickets. This makes cancellations and changes less complicated, and I find that it also opens up some different routes that are not found in round-trip searches. For international flights, I break up my search by starting with a round-trip flight to my preferred airline's non-stop destinations, and then from there to my ultimate destination. This strategy again reveals more routes/options than a single, end-to-end search.

  12. 9A Guest

    Google Flight is an awful way to search for tickets until they release a feature that allows a user to exclude ‘basic economy’ from their searches.

    It shouldn’t be hard. If I can search based on my cArBoN fOoTpRiNt I should be able to exclude basic economy.

    1. DaBluBoi Guest

      Is there any other booking site that allows for the exclusion of basic economy, though? AFAIK there are none

    2. Daniel Guest

      Momondo actually lets you filter the search results for (in case of a random Economy search I just did): Basic Economy, Economy, Business, and mixed.
      Additionally it allows filtering for checked luggage.
      In this regard, it's better than Google Flights.

    3. Schar Diamond

      yes! KAYAK has the option for you to exclude basic economy from search results. I use KAYAK for years, its honestly the best

  13. Andy Diamond

    On some airlines, the fare inventory GF relies on does not seem to be updated regularly. For instance, one of my recent searches showed (for a couple of days) availability in fare class J, which is the lowest fare class with TP, but this fare class was no longer available, neither on their website, nor through travel agencies. In fact, EF showed J0, i.e. no availability.

    1. maj Guest

      Try the ITA Matrix and install the ITA Matrix Powertools add-on to book the fare.

  14. DT Guest

    Particularly with AA, certain inventory does not show on GF. The opposite appears to hold true for UA.

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Jimbo1 Member

Kayak is too clunky/slow and filled with ads. While it's possible that it finds some results that GF doesn't, I generally don't trust search engines that are overloaded with ads. GF is very streamlined and fast, which allows me to zip through a ton of searches on different browser tabs in seconds. I often leave the tabs open for days or weeks to repeat my searches; if I did this with Kayak, my computer's memory might be exhausted, or the browser might just crash.

1
dee Guest

What is with the CO2 crap listing on google ?? who cares

1
Øyvind Guest

My contribution to the field of flight search is PanFlights. With it you can search truly flexibly. It has popular things like filtered price calendars and explore maps. A custom range of dates can be used to populate the map. So you are not limited to a fixed date or month. There's also a departures map, sort of like a "reverse explore map". Not only the price is shown in those maps. For connected flights the travel duration is also included. City markers are color coded, making it easier to spot your best options.

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