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Google Flights …. slowly becoming interesting

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A few 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, ExpediaI explained how to use ITA Matrix to find cheap British Airways tickets from European starting points here.

It wasn’t clear what else Google was going to do with ITA until Google Flights appeared two years ago.  At that point, it was a relatively unsophisticated flight search engine.  It did nothing that Expedia didn’t do apart and forced you to go onto the airlines own site to complete your purchase.

Slowly, Google Flights is becoming interesting.

Google Flights

If you visit the Google Flights search page here you will see that it now does something clever.  On one page, it shows you flight prices across a range of dates TO A RANGE OF CITIES.  Nobody else does this.

If you want a weekend away at the end of next month to Germany, for example, you can search ‘London’ to ‘Germany’.  You will be shown, on one page, results to a range of airports across a two month period.

My gut feeling is that this is most useful when looking to travel to somewhere with a number of major airports in a compact area.  If you wanted to travel to Florida, for example, this tool makes it very easy to quickly compare prices to Miami, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale etc.

None of this is setting the world alight so far although the technology involved is undeniably impressive.  If I were Expedia, though, I would be getting a little concerned about what Google will do next – the killer app may be just around the corner.

Comments (17)

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  • Wade says:

    One reason I prefer ITA to Skyscanner is that you can get more complex with the routings – unless I’m missing something (entirely possible), you can’t book open jaw flights on Skyscanner.

    The big thing in favour of Skyscanner is that you can book flights directly – if ITA linked up with a travel agent to do this, that would be massive!

  • James67 says:

    I have become very frustrated with it. I used to find google very useful in that you could simply search an airport code pair and it would return direct and connecting schedules for airlines operating between them. Furthermore, you could click on the airport code and it would return schedules for all airlines for all origins and destinations serving it with direct flights. I found this great, especially in BMI days when the sky was pretty much the limit for multisector redemptions. It was also good for searching outh fifth freedom flights offering great value. Now when I google airport code pairs I get a frustratingly random return, most commonly showing flights and prices to those airports from my local airport bookable on same day which is largely useless. I have tried slightly more sophisticated search strings to no avail. For me, google is going backwards on this, not forwards unless I am looking in wrong place.

  • JQ says:

    This does not apply to the ex-EU stuff, but for all but the simplest itineraries, ITA returns flights that is never able to book. I’ve also tried real travel agents and they can’t find the flights I want at the same prices that ITA says is available.

    Once I thought I’d made a huge APD saving as ITA found a stopover in Europe on LX for exactly 24 hours which it said was exempt from APD. Turns out that it is not exempt, but ITA read the fare rules wrong so it was quoting a higher base fare than the airline.

    I’ve been getting ITA quotes for under £1000 to SYD via HKG but these are again never bookable and seemingly from some FT threads this is because it shows standby availability from CX.

    So for me ITA is really only useful to identify trends such as the cheapest European destination or whether some days have sold out all the cheap buckets.

  • richie says:

    not in business, only economy

  • richie says:

    off topic, there are plenty of ba vouchers on ebay if someone looking to save £100 off a ba flight.

  • Manuel Gonzalez says:

    The only thing it does not and ITA did is open jaws.

    Is it only me or is ITA recently working really bad?

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