There are tons of online booking sites and search engines that will help you find a cheap flight. You’re probably familiar with online travel agencies (OTAs) such as Expedia, Kayak, Priceline, and Travelocity, but have you ever considered Google Flights?
Google Flights vs An Online Travel Agency
It’s important to note that Google Flights is not an OTA. Instead, it is a robust search engine that pulls flight prices directly from major airlines and compiles that information all in one place. Once you’ve found a flight, Google Flights will direct you to the airline’s website to make your purchase.
What is an Online Travel Agency?
A third-party ticket seller, an OTA books flights on behalf of an airline. When you book a flight through an online travel agency, the OTA earns commission. An OTA can most certainly offer cheap flights, but there are risks to consider.
- Your flight isn’t actually reserved until it is confirmed with the airline.
- Your sale may be final or there may be restrictive cancellation terms.
- If something goes wrong, you must go through the OTA rather than directly through the airline.
- You may not be able to earn miles through the airline.
5 Incredibly Useful Google Flights Features
Below are five research and planning features that you can use to find a cheap flight.
#1 – Google Flights Search
Searching for a flight using the Google Flights’ search feature is easy and straight forward. Enter in your departure location, arrival destination, and your travel dates, and you’ll be presented with a list of airlines offering trips to that locale. Be sure to apply some of the search filters for a more desirable search result. Once you’ve found your flights, Google Flights will direct you to the airline to finish booking.
#2 – Google Flights Explore
Google Flights Explore is a fantastic feature that helps you find cheap travel destinations. Simply input your departure destination, a date range, and your max price, and the Explore map will show you what it will cost to fly into major airports worldwide. Google Flights Explore is perfect for price-conscious travelers who don’t yet have a destination in mind.
#3 – Google Flights Track Prices
Google Flights track prices is a price monitoring tool that will deliver price changes straight to your inbox. First, use the search feature to narrow down your location and dates. Then turn on the track prices feature to start getting alerts about price drops. You can set up notifications to be delivered by email or phone.
#4 – Date Grid and Price Graph
Everyone seems to have an opinion when it comes to the cheapest day to fly. The hard truth is that there are sophisticated algorithms that airlines use when setting flight prices. Use Google’s Date Grid and Price Graph tools – based on real historical data – to determine the best day to fly. Both features allow you to pinpoint the cheapest flight combinations based on your date range. One is in grid format and the other is an interactive graph.
#5 – Google Flights Insights
When is the best time to buy a plane ticket? Once you’ve entered in your search parameters, Google Flights Insights will show you what that same flight would have cost you over the past twelve months. Use this feature to potentially find the cheapest day to purchase your tickets.
Tips for Using Google Flights Features
- If you have the flexibility and option, consider doing a search from different airports to find the best price. The Google Flights Search feature allows you to search up to seven different airports at once.
- If your travel dates are not flexible, sign up for flight alerts and have price changes delivered straight to your inbox.
- If your travel dates are flexible, use the Google Price Graph feature to find the best days to fly based on historical data.
- Use the Google Flights Explore to find the cheapest destinations from your location.
Which Airlines are Not on Google Flights?
One major airline that you will not find on Google Flights is Southwest. In fact, you won’t find Southwest Airline tickets on an OTA either. That’s because they have chose not to participate in third-party bookings or flight search engines. As well, you may not find smaller, lesser known airlines on Google Flights either.
Google Flights is a different kind of search engine that lets you book through the airline instead of an OTA. Free, powerful, and easy-to-use, Google Flights can be a game changer when it comes to finding flight deals.
Alexandrea Sumuel is the founder of Wander With Alex, where she provides vacationers and travel enthusiasts with trip ideas, travel guides, news, and itineraries. She travels to experience, eat, and explore-- and, on occasion, escape! Alex’s mission is to help people travel better.