Google Flights launches in the UK – a new airline price search engine

A couple of years ago, Google bought ITA.  ITA is the most comprehensive airline pricing and routing database available, able to run substantially more complex searches across multiple dates, routes and airlines than, say, Expedia.

It wasn’t clear what Google was going to do with ITA, but one outcome appears to be Google Flights, which has now launched in the UKYou can find it here.

Google

As usual with Google launches, it has been done with modest fanfare and it is not entirely clear what the point is, so far.  It appears to be taking data from the ITA database and presenting it in a far more user friendly format.

That said, at the moment it can do nothing cleverer than finding all the fares from Point A to Point B on a specific date.  The only difference between Expedia and Google Flights is that Google will send you off to whichever website has the cheapest fare for that particular date.  This doesn’t really gain you much as a customer, though, since it is rare these days to find a third party website openly selling a flight for less than the airline itself.

Given that this is Google, though, I imagine we can expect to see major improvements to this tool as the months pass.

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Comments

  1. David Moritz says:

    Can one not differentiate by cabins or am I missing something?

  2. I like the ‘instant’ search look!

  3. tigertanaka says:

    It is so quick. Spent about an hour looking at various options for a trip to Vienna on Wednesday, this would have done it in 5 minutes.

    • With all due respect to Raffles, I disagree!
      Yes, short-haul fares are usually cheapest direct from the airline.com websites, (especially easyJet, Ryanair, Aer Lingus, BA etc). But there are instances (Austrian to Vienna on Wednesday for example, where agents offer fares approx £50 cheaper)
      And for long-haul travel, lower prices can be found from online and offline Travel Agents via negotiated “net fares”, if they have marked-up prices competitively.
      When researching flight options, you should initially use a search engine that checks both the airlines direct – and travel agencies like Expedia, Opodo etc.
      Google will not “send you to whichever website has the cheapest fare”

      Google offers an incomplete selection of airline prices and although it links directly to ba.com, for other airlines it relies on two online agents: Bravofly, who adds a per-person credit card charge (typically £24 for two passengers) and only at the end of the booking process, and Fly.co.uk who add a hidden “service fee” of up to £50!
      Yes, Google Flights “look-and-feel” is slick. Very slick. But what is most important? It should be content and pricing, surely? And much of the “instant search” must rely on cached memory.
      Expect to see major improvements? Maybe, but Google has had two years to develop the ITA search engine since paying $700M and if this is the best offering so far then they should be ashamed!

      To read a review of Google Flights and my recommendation of a better and more impartial search engine that includes direct links to low cost airlines and premium economy/business class, see my site.

  4. Andy Young says:

    Not very good for EU as it excludes RA/Lufty. I managed to access J/F fares earlier today but cant remember how i dd it

  5. I prefer the pre google ITA matrix. Lots more options

    http://matrix.itasoftware.com/

    • ITA matrix is good for published fares on legacy carriers and for information only. It doesn’t feature the low-cost-carriers and it doesn’t include discounted air-fares. And it lacks any deep-links through to the airline/agents websites. It is good for some research though ….