Thursday, March 19, 2015

Google Flights...What You Should Know

There seems to be a lot of hubbub these days when it comes to Google and their dabble into the travel arena.  Some are saying it will transform our industry yet again while at the same time giving Google and particularly their new flight search site way too many props for being some form of ingenious new way to book your airfare.  One recent travel writer made a claim that Google flights is even better than a travel agent.  So what I thought I would do is simply show what it does and explain how I even use it as a tool when looking for the best airfare for my clients.   Then you be the judge whether or not you think it is the best thing since sliced bread and professional advice from a experienced travel consultant.

First...let's be clear. is simply an airfare search page.  That is all it is.  It is not a vacation package booking engine.  It is not even an airfare booking engine.  It is simply a search site. Let me show you how it works and how I use it.  Let's assume you want to fly from good ole Nashvegas (that's Nashville to you lay-people) to Los Angeles during May of this year.  Let's even assume that your dates are flexible.  For the most part, regardless of advertising gimmicks, travelers and their schedules are usually not that flexible due to vacation times at work, school etc. But let's assume you ARE flexible and can travel at any point in May.

Here is what the search page would look like as you enter the originating airport, your destination airport and the dates of travel...

You can see that $322 round trip looks to be the best looking fare for the entire month of May.  So if I click on May 1st and then click on May 16th for my shows me the following options for my outbound flight...

So after choosing the 6:00am shows me more details of that segment of the trip...

So in case you were unsure of what IAH stood for on the previous screen, you now know that your flight is connecting through Houston and has a 3+hour layover.   So then I went to the next step which was to select my return flight option.  To keep it in that $322 range, I decided to come home on the 1:30pm flight which connects through Chicago.

Now here is what I want you to notice.  I have the flights I want and it appears that the price is going to be $322 round trip for these flights.  So what is my next step?  Book them right here on the Google site? Is Google now also my booking engine? No, not at all.  In order to book this flight, Google is directing me to "book with United."  United's website is where I would actually go to book the flights.  So Google did a good job of showing prices and flights associated with those prices.  But did it offer advice on which airport is the easiest to connect through?  Did it tell you that a 48 min layover may not be enough time to make a connection through Chicago's O'hare Airport?  Did it advise you that taking the latest flight out leaves virtually no options in case a delay were to happen due to weather or mechanical trouble with an aircraft?   Did offer any sound travel advice other than providing you with times and prices?

So does this new search site mark the end of the need for sound professional travel agent advice?  What is it doing that some search sites have not already done?  Is it neatly arranged and easy to navigate?  Yes!  That is why I use it to see which airline may be offering the best prices for a given destination during a given time.  I then take that info and head straight to the airline itself to book for my clients.  And here is something to keep in is not offering any better price than what you are going to get straight from the airline.  It is not a cost saver in that is a search time saver.  So do I, a professional travel consultant, use  I sure do.  But let's not make it out to be more than it really is.