Google Flights – Complete Guide to find the cheapest deals!
Google Flights has been developed by Google and is used by millions of users. It is the key tool for finding cheap flights. Indeed, it has the potential to become the most powerful metasearch platform in the travel industry.
Google Flights has many advantages but also some disadvantages compared to its competitors. After hunting for cheap flights every day for 7 years, I am going to share my knowledge to help you find cheaper flights. This guide is made for casual travellers who want to quickly find a good price, but without spending countless hours searching online.
This is our complete guide to finding cheap flights and the best deals via Google Flights.
Brief history of Google Flights
Back in 2011, Google Flights purchased ITA Software. ITA Software made the most amazing flight search engine loved by most of the travel geeks and flight deal hunters.
Based on the ITAs technology, Google launched Google Flights which uses the framework Google gained from their purchase. Google Flights immediately became a real competitor to world-leading flight booking sites like Kayak, Orbitz group or Skyscanner.
The original ITA Software Matrix still exists but is not as novice-friendly as Google Flights. It allows tracking, however, you can not purchase any of the searches made through this website. Sadly, the flight search is no longer as great after the “enhancements” they made last year.
Google Flights general tips
- It sets language, currency etc. based on your location. If you wish to switch this simply click on an icon in the top left corner. When the menu shows up you can change your language, currency or country.
- Google Flights is a metasearch comparison engine (or aggregator) so does not sell any flights. It will compare thousands of options in a single search and shows you the best results. You will then book your flight through the airline or various OTAs (Online Travel Agencies). Google Flights will get a commission from this purchase. However, the price is similar to the one you would find when going directly without Google Flights as a 3rd party.
- Once you search for your flight, you will be presented with the best options based on several factors Google Flights takes into account. Price, total travel time, comfort (WiFI, in-flight entertainment), and others. It does not necessarily mean you will get the cheapest flights on top. If you want to see the cheapest option, click on “Sort by” and choose “price”.
- Google Flights comparison tool is extremely quick, (near-instant) when searching for flights. On the other hand, the results you see are not “live”. This means it is not too uncommon that the deal you see on Google Flights has expired. When you click through the link to the airline, the flight is either significantly more expensive or not available. If this happens to you, we suggest going directly to the airline’s website to see if it is still live. The deal may be live for other dates so simply search for other travel periods. Most airlines offer a flexible search tool to see the cheapest prices.
- In some cases, the tool does not show results based on certain carriers. (Usually, it does not include are Chinese Airlines – Air China, China Eastern Airlines etc..). In many cases, those airlines offer the cheapest option especially if you are travelling to/from China, South East Asia or Australia. If you are a budget traveller looking for the cheapest option then we recommend searching for your flight via other metasearch websites. (Kayak. Skyscanner).
- Google Flights cooperates with most of major airlines as well as leading OTAs such as Expedia. However, in some cases, it will not offer you the cheapest option compared to their competitors. This is because they do not integrate with all low-cost carriers or small travel agencies (example below).
Google Flights is extremely quick compared to other metasearch engines. So you can hunt for the cheapest date options on Google Flights first, then check the price for the same dates on Skyscanner or Momondo.
Sample search from “All London airports” to “All Dusseldorf airports” with Google Flights and Skyscanner. Skyscanner offers an option from London Stansted to Dusseldorf Weeze for just €30 roundtrip. On Ryanair, there is no option with Google Flights. You can see significantly more expensive flights from London Gatwick to Dusseldorf main airport on EasyJet. This example has travel dates for both flights on the 20th of May (outbound) and 27th of May 2019 (inbound).
What makes Google Flights unique
In my opinion, the most powerful feature of Google Flights is being able to enter up to 7 airports of departure. You can also put up to 7 airports into destination airport. This gives you up to 49 combinations in a single search! There is no other tool in the whole Internet which allows this. It simply makes everything faster.
Simply enter your preferred airport(s) of departure and arrival. Choose travel dates and you will instantly get the cheapest flights. For instance, you can put LHR, AMS, BRU, CDG, FRA. FCO into the departure airport, and JFK, LAX, SFO. DEN, MIA into the arrival airport. Google Flights will search for the cheapest option in one single search.
This feature is also a great way to track open-jaw tickets (click on multi-city search).
NOTE – Unfortunately sometimes this multi-airport search gives no results, or the results given by putting in a single airport could be a better price. It should be used as an additional search function, not a replacement for a standard search.
Another great feature on Google Flights for you is seeing all the cheapest flights on a world map (follow this link to Google Flight maps view). This makes your search clearer and gives you an instant idea of the cheapest flights on selected routes. Simply enter your departure airport in the top left corner to see the best deals. You can enter a single airport, country or even continent as your destination, or zoom out to see the whole map.
To book the cheapest deals, you first need to set all the details of your flight. So choose the departure and arrival airports, whether you want a one-way ticket, round-trip or multi-city flight, the number of passengers (adult, children, infant) and a booking class. (Economy, Economy Premium, Business Class or First Class).
Next is choosing your travel dates. Google Flights’ calendar tool is extremely useful if you are flexible with your dates. Once you click on a departure travel date you will see a two-month calendar. The calendar then shows the prices for travel. The cheapest flights available will be highlighted in green. This tool shows the best prices for the next 12 months so feel free to search other months on the calendar.
You should try different durations of your trip as you may get a different, cheaper result as well just by staying for one more/less day. Play with this option a bit if you are flexible on your travel dates. The below example shows the London to New York route).
Once you’ve chosen all of the details, Google Flights will refresh the results. The most interesting deals will now show (screenshot below). Google Flights will not automatically offer the cheapest option first, it selects the best value deals according to their own criteria. Fortunately, the tool offers many ways to filter out flights to only show the best ones for your preferences. You can filter the search by:
- The number of stops (non-stop flights only, max 1 layover etc..)
- Particular airlines or Alliances (Oneworld, Star Alliance, SkyTeam)
- Maximum layover duration
- Flight duration (Hidden behind the “More”)
- Connecting airports
TIP: If you use ITA Matrix to track a fare, sometimes you will not be able to see it on Google Flights unless you choose certain airline and or travel date. If you cannot find the cheapest flight you found on Matrix software, we recommend you select the carrier the deal is based on. If this still does not help you need to choose the specific travel date. Only after doing this will Google Flights show the cheapest flights, including on the low-cost calendar.
Once you are ready to book your flight simply click on “Select flight”.
TIP: If you don’t need to book immediately, and can book your flight later, you can turn on the “Track prices” icon. This will monitor the lowest price for this itinerary and Google Flights will automatically inform you of any price change on your selected route and dates.
Google Flights will offer a direct booking with the airline or via their preferred booking agents. At this point, it is worth price checking with Skyscanner or Kayak to see whether they can offer an even lower price via other OTAs. Google Flights only allows booking with global leading OTAs, in most cases.
Remember that the cheapest does not mean the best, and you should always book your flight with a reliable company. If you do not know which one to use, you can see reviews of the travel agencies at Trustpilot. If there is no noticeable price difference then booking directly with the airline is always the safest option.
Google Flights is an extremely powerful tool to find the cheapest flights offering unique options such as searching to/from multiple airports. The flight search load times are lightning-fast as you would expect from the largest search engine. The map view is intuitive and helpful for even a technophobe.
But, there are still some things they could improve on that you should consider when using the site for your own cheap flights. In many cases, it does not offer you the cheapest option. Nor does it show error fare deals. Sometimes it displays unavailable deals too which can be frustrating. Being aware of these slight limitations well help you to use Google Flights as one tool in your armoury. When these are inevitably improved on by Google though, Google Flights will be the undisputable ultimate flight search tool and the only search you’ll need to do.
Is there something you would like to add or have any questions? Feel free to contact us at info (at) flynous.com.
Want to actually book the cheapest flights available? You may also like our Skyscanner ultimate guide!