If you’re thinking of a flight search website, I’ve tried it. Skyscanner, Kayak, Airfarewatchdog, Orbitz, the list goes on. But time and again, I’ve kept coming back to my one true love: Google Flights.
This little love letter is my own opinion based on my own experiences. I frequently refer to hazy, half-remembered articles I read long ago for some of my reasoning. Don’t let that give my any authority! I don’t deserve it. But I do an obsessive amount of research each time I book a trip, and that includes referencing multiple booking sites. Yet I keep returning to Google Flights.
This sounds like it could be sponsored, but it’s definitely not. I just want to let Google know that if they change any of my favorite features, I will hunt them down. *cough.* So switch into incognito mode, and let’s book some flights.
What I love
The reasons for my love are simple: between an easy interface and simple calendar search, I can always find the cheapest flights available. But specificity is more fun!
Calendar price comparison search
This is the best way of saving money on a flight, hands down. I’ve always found the assertions about whatever day of the week being the best for booking flights to be hogwash. But it’s very very true that plane tickets can double in price from one day to the next. That’s where the calendar search comes in.
I know other online travel agents (OTAs) and booking services have similar features. But some of them don’t let you look at the calendar, just allowing you to select flexible date search to show a few days on either side. Or they won’t load the results until you actually select a day. But with Google Flights, you can just open the calendar, see the price options, and you’re done. It’s also a really good way to figure out when school holidays are—prices skyrocket—and avoid traveling then.
This is travel porn. Put in your departing airport, explore the map, and find the lowest prices for your dates. I’ve actually never used this function to book a flight, but one day…Until then, I enjoy drooling over airfare to Montreal or Belize every other day. The only problem is the only inexpensive airfare out of Bozeman is to Denver or Minneapolis. Not the most exotic.
Booking directly through the airline
A lot of OTAs (like Kayak, Booking, Agoda, etc.) offer “deals” through their sites, but those same deals are often available when booking directly through the airline. I have nothing against OTAs and use them myself quite frequently, but I do try to buy directly whenever possible. Those OTAs make a commission on each sale that cuts into the company’s profit, and while I have no strong feelings when it comes to a major airline missing out on a small cut, it does make it difficult for the buyer from a customer service standpoint.
If I wanted to change my ticket, I often wouldn’t be able to change with the airline itself if I booked through an OTA. That means I would have to rely on the booking company to sort everything out for me quickly, and if that doesn’t happen there’d be nothing I could do to speed up the process. So I like that with Google Flights, it just links me straight to the airline’s website to make the purchase.
Displaying all airlines that run the route
I remember reading a few years ago that certain OTAs weren’t listing flights from Alaska because they didn’t have a contract with each other. And a lot of those US-based OTAs weren’t showing flights operated by smaller global airlines.
Business relationships change, but I want to be sure that I’m getting to see all the options, from low-cost carriers to luxury airlines. So far, that’s seemed to be the case with Google Flights.
No price hikes
The day I hopped on Skyscanner (in incognito mode) to book a flight and saw that the price had risen $50 from the last time I’d checked was the last time I booked through Skyscanner. Because I did book the ticket, but then had someone else check the price, only to realize that the price had only gone up for me.
Am I wrong? What’s your favorite booking platform for finding great airfare deals? I’m open to trying something new for the right perks!