Many of you probably have heard about Google Flights before. It’s a very powerful tool that will help you search and find cheap flights to any destination worldwide. Especially if you’re not set on a particular date or destination, you will be able to get great offers! We here at Travel-Dealz use Google Flights to find many of the mind-blowing steals we present to you. The tool is speedy and still delivers excellent results. Those are all reasons why you should know how to make use of it!
In late 2017 Google started to roll out an entirely new version of Google Flights, and while users were able to choose between the old and the new design for a while, Google phased out the older Google Flights in June 2018. Since then there is only one tool for everyone to use.
Some people that are familiar with good ways to find cheap flights will have used another Google product in the past: Matrix Airfare Search. Google acquired the company behind this tool, ITA Software, in 2010. But since then Google didn’t focus on making Matrix better. To the contrary: some nice features, like the flight search using several departure airports, have vanished. And while waiting for results, the ITA Software will always remind you of the fact, that Google Flights can get your findings faster. It seems as if Google wants to kill off the Matrix. One more reason, to get familiar with Google Flights.
So, how can Google Flights help you with your flight trips and what are the things that can’t be done with this tool? Is it a solid replacement for the Matrix or just a supplement?
Table of contents
- The advantages of Google Flights
- Limitations of Google Flights
- Bottom line
The advantages of Google Flights
There are so many things that Google Flights can do to help you searching for and finding the perfect flight. Unfortunately, not everything. But still a lot!
While the ITA Matrix is still scanning for flights, Google’s tool has most likely already returned several options for your next trip. The speed at which results are provided is just incredible! That’s something Google is really, really good at. However, to hold up the fast search, the tool has to cache results. So from time to time, Google Flights might display prices that are in fact not available anymore.
This is a lovely option that Google Flights has to offer: if you’re in the mood for traveling but aren’t sure where you’d like to go, you can search a map and get inspired. Since you will see the lowest prices right away, you can select the destination that suits your budget.
By using the function Explore destinations you can enter a point of departure and specific flight dates and you will see a map with several goals worldwide, including the best fare for flights that will bring you there:
There are various filters available that enable you to narrow down your search. For example, you can choose to get results for a specific airline or an airline alliance only:
Tip: The filter shown above can just include or exclude an airline alliance. You can also search for flights to a definite location, set the filter to an airline and then delete the location again. That way you will be able to search exclusively for flights offered by your favorite carrier.
Besides the airline filter, you can also limit the results to a specific price, time of destination as well as duration of the trip.
If you’re not only open to new destinations but also have a flexible schedule, you can also search for flights within a certain period of time. Just select Flexible dates instead of Specific dates:
Search for flights from and to 7 different airports
Google Flights allows you to select up to seven departure and destination airports at once, which means that you will be provided with 49 different combinations for your travel! You can enter the name of the city or an IATA code.
The result can then again be narrowed down, e.g., to a specific airline or a connecting airport.
You have to be sure to enter only one specific airport if you want to get up to the count of seven. Since just entering a city might mean that you actually selected more than one airport (e.g., London – the capital of the UK has several airports). In case you entered seven different locations, and Google Flights returns an error, check if you really only selected one airport per city.
Find the best departure date using the calendar
If you found a great offer but the dates are not perfect, you can check if the same rate is available at another time. To do so, merely open the calendar. All you have to do now is to set a duration for your trip, and you’ll see the best dates for cheap rates:
You can also choose a time for your departure, and Google Flights will display the prices for the most inexpensive connections:
As already mentioned, Google Flights uses cached information. This not only means that the results are not always perfect – for example flights could turn out to be more or less expensive – but can also lead to a short waiting period. Although it will typically never take Google Flights longer than a few seconds to fetch your results.
Once you’ve entered all locations and dates, Google Flights will present you with multiple options for your trip:
The so-called Best flights will be ranked above all other flights if you keep Google’s sorting. The decision on which flight is better than the others is based on flight duration, transfer time and comfort (WiFi on board, In-flight entertainment and so on).
Of course, you can also change the sorting by clicking on the Sort by button and choosing Price. Now all connections will be ranked from cheapest to most expensive.
Once you’ve selected your preferred outbound flight Google Flights will offer you one or more possible return flights followed by options on how to book this itinerary. Note, that not all travel search engines and online travel agencies will be compared for the results.
We, therefore, recommend using the information Google Flights returned to find even cheaper rates on sites like Momondo.
WiFi on board, Lie-Flat seats?
Google Flights also gives you exciting information about the flights itself. That way you’ll be informed about services on board and the hard product before you book a flight.
In the overview of chosen or available flights you can see if you’ll be able to stay online thanks to onboard WiFi:
There is also additional information about legroom and if seats will be lie-flat or not. Even details about the inflight entertainment system or in-seat power outlets will be shown:
This, however, is only displayed for information purposes. The airline can change the aircraft at any time, and there is no guarantee that you will receive the service or experience the seats that Google Flights showed you before you booked a flight.
Another very interesting feature is Tracked prices. You can search for specific flights and Google will start to monitor the prices for flights on the exact route. That way you can check if the price you see today is better or worse than what has been available in the past.
The tracking will start from the day you saved the search (that’s why the screenshot above doesn’t show a lot of information:)), and you’ll have to log-in to a Google account to track prices.
If you want, Google will also inform you about price changes for your selected routes:
Multi-stop and open jaw connections
Google Flights also helps you search for open jaw flights or flights to more than one city. Unfortunately, the calendar view is not available for those flights. But you can still enter up to seven airports:
Not only simple open jaw flights can be checked, but up to five different segments are possible within one search. You can also include short or long stopovers.
While these airlines used to be excluded from Google Flight’s search in the old days, you can now find Ryanair, Easyjet, Eurowings, Norwegian and other major low-cost carriers in your search results.
Get to a nearby airport by car
If a destination has more than one airport that you can fly into, Google will show you how long of a drive it will take to get to the actual destination. For example, there are several airports in and around London:
The same trick will work for the departure airport.
Sorting out fares that exclude hand-luggage
There used to be a time when bringing a piece of hand luggage on board was something that mainly passengers in the US had to worry about. But since even carriers in Europe changed their system, the feature of sorting out fares that exclude hand luggage can come in handy:
Limitations of Google Flights
So, after all the great things that Google Flights can do for us when searching for flights, could there also be some downsides? Or are there tools that just cover some aspects better?
No routing codes
A significant advantage that ITA Matrix offers is working with so-called routing codes. Using these codes, you can include only flights operated by a specific airline, specify the number of connections, search for flights with a layover in one particular airport, limit the duration of an itinerary and more.
While Google Flights does offer some similar filters, it’s not possible to narrow down a search as good as with ITA Matrix. You can’t search for booking classes or certain aircraft types, for example.
Fare rules are not being displayed
One great feature of the ITA Matrix tool is that it will show you the fare rules for a specific flight. Those fare rules will provide you with information on a minimum stay, restrictions regarding the travel period or tell you, how long fares will be available for booking.
Code-share flights can’t be excluded
Some time ago, Google flights had an option to exclude certain airlines from your search. Now you can only select one or more airlines that you’d like to fly with. While this is sufficient to eliminate low-cost carriers it does not do the job if you need to fly a specific airline.
For example, if you’d like to fly to New York using United, Google Flights will also include trips with Lufthansa:
Not all fares can be found
For some airlines – this used to be true especially for airlines from Asia – the search results are not always reliable. While it might be possible to find prices for exact dates, the calendar function is often not available.
The US airline Southwest doesn’t want to have their prices listed at all:
Google flights is an awesome tool and everybody that travels should know how to use it. However, some functions are not available, compared to Matrix Airfare Search. But we doubt that ordinary travelers will notice the missing features.