Google Flights is Probably the Best Flight Search Engine

Which web site do you use to search for flights?  Expedia?  Travelocity?  Kayak?  For years, I’ve used Kayak religiously.  It always did the job.  There’s now a flight search engine that I find myself using over Kayak: Google Flights.  Yes, Google is claiming yet another element of the internet.

There are two main reasons Google Flights is probably the best flight search engine: speed and visualization of alternative destinations.

Google Flights is Fast!

Google Flights is Much Faster than Kayak
For the test searches I ran, Kayak took 9 times as long as Google Flights to complete the search.

Whereas other flight search engines take seconds to update results when you make any significant change to your search, Google Flights updates almost instantly.  It’s very impressive the site can process pricing algorithms as fast as it does.

I ran a couple test searches and found that where Kayak took about 9 seconds on average to return a complete list of results, Google Flights returned a complete list of results in under 1 second.  If you’re doing flight searches without definitive destinations or dates, you’ll really appreciate the speed of Google Flights.

If you’re flexible with your travel dates, just click the small bar icon underneath the return date field and a calendar with flight prices will pop up.  Again, this isn’t a unique feature, but the speed with which it works is unique.

Google Flights Calendar Function
For searchers with flexibility in travel dates, the calendar function is very helpful. It is similar to offerings on other flight search sites but it’s much faster.

Google Flights Offers Great Visualization of Destination Options

If you’re not quite sure of exactly where you want to go, Google Flights offers a visualization option that is extremely useful.  The site will superimpose flight prices for a wide variety of destinations onto a map, and it does it fast.  This is excellent for honeymooners who may know of the region they want to visit but not of the exact city or country.

Google Flights 2
The mapping feature of Google Flights is impressive as it shows you flight prices for all destinations based on your inputted departure airport.  This feature is great for users who aren’t sure of an exact destination.

Additional Notes on Google Flights

Google Flights isn’t a site you actually book airfare through; it will connect you to booking sites when you’re ready to pull the trigger.  This step seems to be viewed as a negative by some folks but I actually don’t mind it at all as I prefer to book through the carrier’s site.  Doing so can eliminate finger-pointing between a third-party site and the carrier if there are problems with the booking.

I’ve used the Kayak app extensively over the years so I was bit disappointed to find out there isn’t a Google Flights app.  On the other hand, the mobile version of the Google Flights website is great, offering almost all of the functionality of the full web site.

Have you found a flight search engine you prefer over Google Flights?  Or have you discovered other functionality of the Google Flights website worth mentioning?  If so, share your thoughts in the comments.

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3 thoughts on “Google Flights is Probably the Best Flight Search Engine

  1. Michael,

    I really enojyed Google flights when it was first rolled out. I agree with you on its blazing fast crunching of data. One thing I’ve noticed is that I’ll get a price with Google and then that price won’t be the same (99% of time higher) when I go to book thru the third party. Have you experienced this?

    I wonder what would happen if Google started charging a modest booking fee ($5-10/ticket) but allowed customers to book thru Google flights directly?

    1. Thank you for the feedback, Brian.

      I haven’t seen that pricing behavior. I followed a couple Google Flight results through to the carriers’ sites and for those specific itineraries the price was as shown by Google Flights. I’ll have to check some other itineraries to see if I can replicate the behavior you’re seeing. If you see this repeatedly on a specific itinerary please let me know the details and I’ll check it out.

      That’s an interesting thought regarding Google adding a fee for on-site booking. Fees such as that turn me off as it only takes a few seconds to navigate to the carrier’s site and book directly but I’m often amazed by how often and how much others are willing to pay for a small convenience so it may be profitable. Google could have used Google Checkout to speed up the payment process but they retired that function/service.

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