Bet You Didn’t Know: The magic of Google Flights

By Julian, author of Devil’s Advocate

 

Google’s Flight Search, often referred to simply as Google Flights, has quickly become my preferred search tool for airline flights. Perhaps you’re surprised to hear that. Maybe you’re even shaking your head. Google Flights? Really? Why?

There are plenty of airline search tools out there, so at first glance it doesn’t seem as if Google Flights has anything new to add. Yes, it uses some of the same search algorithms embedded in its more powerful sister site ITA Matrix (also owned by Google), but otherwise it seems like just another flight search engine.

Yet there are two major features of Google Flights that put it a cut above the others, especially when it comes to advanced multi-city itineraries.

It’s fast!

I mean, not just fast. Ultra fast. Unlike other search engines that display a splash page while you wait for them to retrieve results, options start popping up instantly as soon as you type your search parameters into Google Flights. Change the search date and the revised choices are only a second away. Want to go one-way instead? Click the one-way button and the prices adjust immediately.

And it doesn’t stop. As you start to review the search results, more flights keep popping up as Google Flights finds all the possible permutations. I’m telling you, this thing is so quick that sometimes I feel like it starts to show me flights before I’ve even finished entering my search info.

The “Book with…” buttons.

This is the secret to booking extreme itineraries with Google Flights. Much like ITA Matrix, you can’t buy airline tickets directly through Google Flights. You can only find the flights you want, at which point you have to buy the tickets either at an online travel agency like Orbitz or Expedia or at the airline website itself.

But there’s a super quick way around this. Once you’ve assembled your itinerary, a set of blue buttons appear at the bottom of the page that allow you to proceed to the airline website to book your ticket. They’ll read “Book with American” or “Book with Orbitz” and will show the corresponding price in the blue box.

google flights

At first I figured those blue buttons would just take me to the airline search page where I’d have to recreate my itinerary from scratch. But I was wrong. Click on a blue button and not only will you be taken to the airline website, you’ll also find your entire itinerary perfectly rebuilt from your Google Flight selections, priced and ready for purchase.

Doesn’t sound like a big deal to you?

OK, let’s take an example. Over at Travel Codex earlier this week I wrote about a Delta mileage run that involved stops in nine cities. When I pieced it together in Google Flights, it looked like this (you can click on the image to make it bigger)…

google flights

Now, I dare you to try and re-create this itinerary on delta.com. In fact, I attempted to do just that and delta.com responded with this…

google flights

OK, maybe I’m exaggerating, but suffice it to say delta.com errored out almost immediately. It simply couldn’t price such a complex itinerary. But when I instead clicked on the “Buy with Delta” button on Google Flights, this magically appeared…

google flights

Look at that. It’s a thing of beauty. It makes me want to cry, and not just because I’d be flying in coach for four straight days.

So the next time you’re searching for flights, give Google Flights a shot. It’s well worth your time, because it won’t take up much of it.

Did you know about the magic of Google Flights?

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Find all the “Bet You Didn’t Know” posts here.

About Devils Advocate

The Devil's Advocate learned the ins and outs of travel loyalty programs while flying more than 200,000 miles a year as a TV producer and director for World Wrestling Entertainment (and yes, of course it’s all real). He now splits his time between New York and Los Angeles and loathes New York winters only slightly less than Los Angeles traffic.

More articles by Devils Advocate »

Pingbacks

  1. […] This happens to me in all areas of my life, but never more so than when I’m planning a trip. So it’s a pleasant surprise when I wish for some sort of simple tool and then discover it actually exists. My recent post about automatically piecing together complex itineraries with Google Flights is a case in point (see “Bet You Didn’t Know: The magic of Google Flights“). […]

Comments

  1. There a few more useful tricks people new to Google Flights may not know.

    You can set filter parameters, like airline/nonstop, and keep them filtered for future searches when you change airports, date or COS. When using the calendar function with that, you get a larger matrix of days with your preferred carrier compared to just the Delta site, for example.

    The calendar function/graph option isn’t very noticeable though. Look for the bar graph icon below the departure date input. After you select that, at the bottom of the graph, you can also increase the length of stay as well as add +/-3 days to the dates of travel.

    Lastly, and my favorite, you can list up to five airports for the outbound and the return. That’s 25 different permutations of airports. Just separate them with commas. I think you have to use airport codes for this, though.

    Hipmunk used to be my favorite just for ease, but now Google has the top spot.

    • Great notes, Chris, thanks for sharing. There’s quite a few other features in Google Flights, enough that I should probably do a comprehensive post. Here’s another one that’s been mentioned on Flyertalk — enter a city in the “Explore Flights” page and a general destination such as “United States” and you can find a bunch of possible domestic mileage runs. Here’s the link to “Explore Flights” –> http://www.google.com/flights/explore/

  2. By using this \Book with…\ to be directed to airline website, will it be categorized as opaque fare? Meaning, in your example, do you earn all the miles and MQM/MQD as if you book it directly through Delta (though it cannot price this complex itinerary correctly :p)?

    • As long as you are actually booking on the airline’s website, then yes, you should get all the regular MQM/MQD’s as it is a published fare.

  3. Julian,

    As a longtime BoardingArea fan and a relatively new Google Flight Search team member… I gotta say that you just made my whole week. I’ll be sharing this note with my teammates, and I’m sure they’ll be just as stoked.

    By the way, did you know that you can often get quick access to basic flight info straight from Google Search?

    Try searches like…
    – SFO to NYC
    – Flights to Japan
    – ORD to LHR Jan 5 to 20

    Thanks again for your awesome post, and take care!

  4. i booked 6 round trip tickets to the caribbean with google flights a month ago. I like the favorite function memorize flights and come back to them again.

  5. Great post… I’m searching for a one-way ticket from SLC-NYC on 3/15 and google flights just found a great Delta option that’s not displaying on Delta’s own website, but appears to be legitimate and bookable by clicking on the “book through delta” button… weird…

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