It was only a matter of time that the world’s largest search engine would come up with its own flight comparison tool, but how does it compare with its rivals? Let’s find out.
When Google launched the Google Flights application in India in 2015, it seemed like a no-brainer that the world’s largest search engine would come up with its own flight comparison tool in a market that’s expected to grow to $48 billion by 2020. To give a fillip to its reception by the Indian masses, it had tied up with Jet Airways, Vistara and Via.com in the past. In 2017, to further expand its offering, it signed a pact with Cleartrip. Given that it’s been a good three years since its launch and there’s a ton of other equally good competitor sites abounding in the market, how does Google Flights really measure against its competitors? Let’s find out.
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What Is Google Flights?
Google Flights is a flight aggregator site that is powered by Google’s search engine. Just like other flight comparison websites like Skyscanner, Expedia etc., it scours the internet for the cheapest flight deals and compiles them in one place for you.
Like its competitors, its search filters include the number of stops, the preferred airline(s), price range, preferred timing and whether you would prefer to buy separate tickets for your journey to bag a cheaper deal. But the interesting thing about Google flights is its open-ended search capability. To illustrate, a user may search for flights by giving a time period and budget, and in turn, be shown flight options for various destination choices. The user can select any destination option and will be shown flight prices for each day during the specified date range.
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Will Your Google Search History Affect The Google Flight Prices?
It’s not stupid to think that your past few weeks’ internet research planning for your upcoming trip to Bhutan may affect Google Flight results and show you jacked-up flight fares to Bhutan. However, there is no way we can help you dismiss or confirm that suspicion. Travel websites are known to record your server details and cookies, so when you check back the next day, the website server reads your details and jacks up the prices. An easy manoeuvre around this problem is to switch to incognito mode when checking for or booking flight deals.
The logic behind airfare pricing continues to elude many. Airfares follow a dynamic pricing mechanism and are geared towards profit generation. Airlines follow a system of pricing that is unique to their industry. Since air travel is a perishable product, airlines sell their seats in buckets and start taking bookings months in advance. When the lowest buckets with the cheapest tickets are sold out, they move the ticket pricing up to the next bucket. Since the airline capacity is fixed for six months at a time, a ticket will become expensive when there’s a surge in demand.
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The pricing method followed by airlines is known as yield management. It tries to maximise revenues per passenger kilometre (RPKM). This is fairly different from the pricing model followed by hotels, taxi aggregators and even the Indian Railways.
The RPKM in 2016 was Rs. 4, which meant that to fly 1km, a passenger had to shell out Rs. 4. Interestingly, this is equivalent to what one shells out to travel by bus or rail. This shows how air travel is becoming as affordable as bus or train travel.
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How Does Google Flights Compare With Kayak And Skyscanner?
Before Google Flights hit the market, we’ve been quite at home using other flight comparison websites like Kayak and Skyscanner, but let’s find out if there’s a marked difference in the airfares shown across these websites. I selected Singapore as my travel destination from Bengaluru for a round trip starting on Jan 30 and terminating on February 3, 2019 (direct flights only) and here’s what Google Flights, Kayak and Skyscanner threw up respectively:
All three websites pulled out the same flights from Scoot for the onward journey but, minor as it may be, there was a difference in the flight fares shown by them. Google Flights did show the cheapest fare – Rs. 14,244. Skyscanner showed a slightly higher price at Rs. 14,272. But Kayak showed the highest fare at Rs. 14,472 for some odd reason. Safe to say, that Google Flights does show you the cheapest fares, but to cover your bases, you may want to compare with one or two more flight comparison websites (Cleartrip and Yatra, maybe?).
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How To Make The Best Use Of Google Flights:
After you’ve entered the destination of your choice, number of pax and travel dates, Google Flights will display a “flight insights” section that will throw up recommendations so that you can bag the best deal. Here’s how you can make the best use of them:
- Use the “dates” and “price graph” features to lock in the best fares:
If you’re flexible with your dates and sort of know the time around which you want to travel, use the “dates” and “price graph” features to view airfare trends spread over a month/week. You can pick the date based on when the airfares are at their cheapest.
- Consider nearby airports as cheaper alternatives:
If you’re not too picky about the airport or too keen on enjoying perks like lounge access at specific airports, you could consider travelling from and to nearby airports to pocket a cheaper deal. When you give a destination of your choice, this option gives you a list of alternative airports nearby, along with their prices. This feature, for example, threw up options for both Changi and Kuala Lumpur International airports for me.
- Plan Your trip Itinerary with “tips”:
If you’re one of the those who’s zeroed in on your destination but not quite sure about what to do there, you can make use of the “tips” tool in the flight insights section that offers you great suggestions and tips on how to plan your itinerary, top places to visit, maps, videos etc.
Final Verdict: Is Google Flights Any Good?
To be honest, there’s nothing that Google Flights offers that’s not offered by its competitor flight comparison sites, barring its flight insights feature. In fact, the other sites offer a bunch of other services like hotel bookings and/or car rental services that you can even avail bundled discounts on with promo codes. But if you appreciate a clean, clutter-free design and user-friendly features, then Google Flights should be your pick. It’s also ideal for those who like backpacking and couch-surfing and are not too particular about hotels or wheels to get around.
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