The prices for air travel are constantly changing, and booking the best price for an airplane ticket is always a challenge. How do you know if you get the best flight deals when airfare hunting?
Google Flights is a popular flight data aggregator offered by the company to help users find and book air travel. Beyond that, there are also several other helpful features to aid users in their search for the best prices to any destination, any time. We’re breaking down how to leverage Google Flights to find the best airfares and some tips on navigating the tool’s helpful features.
What is Google Flights?
The Google Flights system finds the cheapest airfare for you based on your chosen criteria, such as price, fare class, date and affordable travel dates for multi-city flights. You can even book a flight directly through Google Flights.
Users can also browse for cheap flights if they are still thinking about possible travel dates using the airfare calendar feature, along with setting up a Google Flight Alert to receive notifications when prices change for a specific itinerary..
Key Features of Google Flights
Google Flights makes browsing air travel rates much easier because there are a variety of features that help you find the lowest airfare for a particular set of dates.
Some key features of Google Flights include:
- Browse prices using a map: Not sure what city you want to visit? You can search for the prices of many destinations displayed on a map. This system allows searching even if you have not made your travel plans to include a specific city.
- Search by date range: You can search for a range of dates if you are not set on specific dates. In most cases, being more flexible can help you save a little more on airfare.
- Set a price filter: Set limits for your air travel budget, and then the system will find alternatives for you to consider within your budget if possible.
- See price predictions: Google Flights shows all the prices predicted for a certain flight over the next 12 months, displayed as a graph, to help choose when it might be a good time to travel.
- Plan a multi-city itinerary: Suppose you want to go on a tour of many countries in no particular order. On the map, you can see the prices of the cities that have the best rates for the first stop to start your trip off with a bargain international flight, then add hops to other cities to your itinerary. Change the order of the cities to see how the ticket prices change for multi-destination travel plans.
- Set an alert for low prices: You can set up Google Flight Tracker and opt-in to receive emails from Google Flight Alerts as prices go down for a specific trip or range of dates.
As a flight aggregator, Google Flights makes it incredibly convenient to plan and book your next trip out of town.
Pros and Cons of Google Flights
Google’s flight price algorithm effectively searches for low-cost airfare on certain travel dates, which is an effective one-stop travel booking tool. But there are pros and cons to consider if you are using the tool.
Here Are the Pros of Using Google Flights
- Comprehensive Flight Search and Filters: Search trips by price, airline, airport, connections, layover time, travel time and seat class type. The search results show the cheapest flights and the best routes with the shortest travel times. You can even book multi-destination trips if you’re hopping around the globe.
- No Third-Party Intermediaries: Any bookings done using the Google Flights online search can be made directly with the air carrier without going through any intermediaries. You do have the option of booking through Google if you choose to.
- Discover New Destinations: Google Flights can explore new destinations to visit on a map while seeing flight prices for future travel.
Here Are the Cons of Using Google Flights
- Bookings Limited to Air Travel: While Google Flights has expanded to include hotels and vacation rentals, it’s strength is still primarily in its low-cost airfare search. Google Flights does not provide direct booking for a hotel, rental car or tour packages through its system, so you’ll have to book directly with the vendor.
- Prices Not Always Accurate: While Google Flights does a great job at constantly updating its vast inventory of flight data, there are times when the price is not the most accurate. You’ll need to double check the airline’s website to make sure your price is the most up-to-date.
- Some Airlines Not Available: Google Flights only searches the airlines (more than 300) and major online travel sites that agreed to partner with Google on the service. Some airlines, like Southwest, are not available for booking through Google Flights.
How To Use Google Flight Tracker
- Enter departure and arrival locations in the search fields.
- Select your departure and arrival dates.
- When you click on the box with the dates, you’ll see the available flights over the next two months in a grid with the lowest cost flights in green. Change the date ranges as desired.
- Choose a departure flight time and price.
- Choose a return flight time and price.
- Select the airline and times you want to depart/arrive.
- Book your flight through Google or with the selected airline.
If you’re not ready to book a flight, you can turn on a price tracker in the upper right.
Turning on the Google Flight Tracker allows the system to automatically notify you by email if the price of this travel route changes, including alerting you about cheaper flights on alternative dates if you have that flexibility in your travel plans.
Tips on Using Google Flights to Find the Best Prices
Here are some helpful tips on how to use Google Flights to find the best prices for your trip:
1. Search Multiple Airports Using Airport Codes and City Codes
Choose up to seven airports for departure and arrival locations in the search bar using their three-letter airport code name, separated by commas.
For example, if you want to go to Europe and find the cheapest international flight to get there, you could put AMS, CDG, CPH, BCN, LHR, FCO and MXP in the arrival box. This group of city codes allows you to see where the cheapest flight from your departure city is to Amsterdam, Paris, Copenhagen, Barcelona, London, Rome or Milan.
Use the three-letter city codes in the search bar to include all airports within a city’s metropolitan area. For example, the code for the metro area of New York City is NYC, which consists of three airports: Kennedy Airport (JFK), La Guardia (LGR) and Newark (EWR).
2. Set Flight Alerts
If you have specific dates you want to travel, you can have Google track prices for that itinerary and send you a notification when prices drop.
If you are flexible on your dates, you can have Google send you updates anytime there is a change in prices in the upcoming months. Set as many alerts as you want so you’re always on top of fare changes.
3. Consider Alternative Nearby Airports
Knowing that you can search multiple airports at a time, consider searching for alternative airports if it can save you a significant amount in airfare.
4. Use the Calendar Feature When Planning
Use the calendar feature to find the best dates for cheap fares for the upcoming 12 months.
5. Take Advantage of Search Filters
There are a variety of filters to help users narrow down their results, such as:
- Baggage: Use the filters to show airlines that allow carry ons and what you’ll be paying in checked bag fees.
- Connecting airports: Filter out the connecting airports that you prefer to avoid.
- Stops: Narrow results to only non-stop or limit the itinerary to just one stop.
- Time: If you prefer to travel during early morning or late night hours when the airport is not as busy, you can add this filter to your search.
6. Be Open to Layovers
Be flexible with flights. Nonstop flights usually charge a hefty premium over flights with a few stops. Flights that leave at odd hours could be cheaper with more connections and longer layovers. If you are not in a hurry and do not mind hanging out at airports, this strategy may save money.
7. Book Multi-City Flights
Creating a multi-city trip is incredibly easy when you use the Multi-City option in the upper left. In some cases, it may be cheaper to add a visit to another city than it is to book the flight to that city separately.
8. Double Check the Price Info Chart
Double-check that you are getting the best deal by reviewing the chart that shows the best prices. Google offers useful data on whether a flight is lower than usual or higher than usual. Utilize all of Google’s data to your advantage.
10. Use Your Loyalty Rewards and Air Miles
Consider paying for the flight using a travel credit card to earn loyalty rewards and air miles for future use. Filter by the airline so you only get results from that airline, and then book your flight using your credit card’s rewards portal.
11. Compare One-Way Prices with a Round-Trip
Compare the prices of two one-way trips (even with different airlines) with the cost of a round-trip fare. There may be situations where it could be cheaper to purchase one-way tickets rather than a round trip.
12. Check Unlisted Airlines
Check alternate websites of airlines that do not participate in Google Flights for a better deal. Suppose you are flying to a destination that has service by Southwest. It might be worth the extra effort to check the Southwest website for a final price comparison with your results from Google Flights.
Google Flights FAQ
Here are some frequently asked questions about Google Flights.
More than 300 airlines and major online ticket agencies (OTA) are partners with the Google Flights system.
Airlines that do not show on the Google Flights system include Air China, China Eastern, Philippine Airlines, Southwest and Thai Airways.
Google Flights is a search engine aggregator of flight data, not an online travel agency. When you choose to book a flight through Google Flights, you permit Google to pass your information on to the appropriate airline(s) or online ticket agency (OTA) that has partnered with Google.
Clicking on the book flight button in Google Flights search results allows you to continue the booking directly with the airline(s) or OTA.
Yes, multiple destination trips are an excellent way to use Google Flights to find the best deals.
Google Flights is a free information service for consumers. Google does not process any payments and therefore provides no refunds.
Any tickets found through Google Flights are booked directly with the airlines or online travel agency (OTA). The airline(s) or OTA of a booked flight handles customer service issues, such as refund requests.
Plan Your Next Trip with Ease
Google Flights is a popular tool and often the first stop travelers use when planning their next trip. Don’t forget to check out the best travel credit cards that you can use the next time you are abroad.