Save Money and Time Using Google Flights

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Nobody likes paying full price for airline tickets, but sometimes we don’t have a choice.  Maybe there are no award seats available, or a trip comes up last minute.  So how do you find the cheapest airfare without searching every airline individually?

Some folks use 3rd-party websites, like Orbitz or Expedia.  Others search for deals using Kayak, Hipmunk, Priceline, or Hotwire.  But I’ve been checking out Google Flights to search for the best deals and it’s got some pretty cool features!

Google Flights Search

Put Google Flights in Your Toolbox When You Search for Cheap Airfare

What Is Google Flights?

Link:   Google Flights

In 2011, Google bought ITA Software, a technology company that produces the airfare search and booking software for many airlines and websites.  Some of their clients include:

  • American Airlines
  • Southwest
  • United Airlines
  • Kayak
  • Orbitz
  • Hipmunk

ITA has their own public airfare search site, called ITA Matrix.  It’s powerful, but you need to learn a lot of codes and commands to make it do what you want.  Travel Codex has a good introduction to Matrix and another post on some of the advanced techniques you can use with it.

Google Flights Search

ITA Matrix Is Powerful but Can Be Complicated

I like what Matrix can do, but I don’t have time to learn a new language to search for airfare.  Google Flights is basically an easier-to-use version of ITA Matrix!

Basic Flight Search

1.   Map Search

Suppose you don’t have a destination in mind, but want to see airfares from your city.  Type in your city name and date range, and a map of North America will come up with sample fares to various cities.

Google Flights Search

Oh, the Places You’ll Go…From Austin

You can zoom in on the map to see more detail by clicking the “+” icon.

Google Flights Search

Zoom In to See More Cities and Fares

Or zoom out using the “” icon to see cities all over the world.  You can center the map on any area by dragging the map with your mouse.

Google Flights Search

You Can Zoom Out to See More of the Map

Click on a destination to get details.  Click “Show Flights” to view your options.

Google Flights Search

Click the City You’re Interested In…Then the Show Flights Button Will Appear

Click “Show Flights” to display a list with the best deals first.  And it shows money saving tips!

Google Flights Search

Cheapest Flights 1st Plus a Tip to Save Money!

First, select the outbound flight.  Then, select a return flight.  I picked the $310 round-trip on United Airlines and American Airlines.

Google Flights Search

Choose Your Outbound Flight 1st, Then the Return

Once you’ve chosen both flights, you’ll get an option to book the flight.  But you can NOT buy the ticket through Google Flights!  You have to book directly with the airline or with an online travel agency, like Orbitz or Expedia.

Google Flights Search

You Can’t Book Directly Through Google Flights

In this case, Google Flights suggests booking directly with United Airlines.  When you click through to the United Airlines website, the flight information is already loaded and ready to purchase.

Thenyou can buy the ticket as you normally would.

2.   Search for Specific Destinations

If you know where you want to go, you can skip the map search and enter your destination into the search box.

Google Flights Search

Enter Your Destination Instead of Using the Map

You can then go ahead with the rest of the search and booking.  In this example, Google Flights suggests buying the ticket from CheapOair, Orbitz, or Frontier directly.

Google Flights Search

Google Flights Gives Several Booking Options

Clicking through to Orbitz also brings the flight details up automatically.  You can then book as you normally would.  I like booking flights through Orbitz because you get airline miles and Orbucks (their rewards program currency).

You can use the Chase Sapphire Preferred for double points on travel or the Barclays Arrival Plus card to get ~2.2% cash back towards travel.

Google Flights Search

Don’t Forget You Can Collect Orbitz Credits!

3.   Using Filters and Search Tools

My favorite thing about Google Flights is being able to customize your searches.  You can filter your search by:

  • Number of stops
  • Price
  • Airline or alliance
  • Departure and arrival time
  • Travel duration
  • Connection point
Google Flights Search

You Can Filter by Airline or Alliance to Fine Tune Your Search

I like saving time by only displaying relevant flights.  For example, I searched for only non-stop flights from New York to Seattle, on SkyTeam alliance airlines only, departing between 9:00 am and 11:00 am and returning between 11:00 am and 5:00 pm.

Only 1 flight met my criteria.  I saved having to sort through a huge list of flights!

Google Flights Search

Save Time by Narrowing Your Search to Only Flights That Meet Your Criteria

4.   Using the Lowest Fare Calendar and Graph

I also like the lowest fare calendar and graph.  Click the graph icon on the right side of the filtering options.

Google Flights Search

Click the Icon to Open the Lowest Price Calendar and Graph

You’ll see a calendar of lowest fares and a graph showing the cheapest and most expensive options for the length of trip you’ve chosen.  Then you can click specific dates to see flights on that day, or use the arrows at the bottom of the graph to change the length of your trip.

If your travel dates are flexible, this is a great way to save money!

Google Flights Search

Check the Calendar and Graph of Lowest Fares If Your Travel Dates Are Flexible

I like that you can expand the graph to easily see which dates have the lowest fares.

Google Flights Search

The Cheapest Fare for a 4-Day Trip Departs on April 25

If you get stuck, you can get help through the Google Flight support page.

Drawbacks and Limitations

Google Flights is just a search tool.  You can NOT book directly on the site.  But the site searches very quickly, so even though you have to book elsewhere, you can still save time.

You can’t search for Southwest flights, because Southwest prefers you search through their website directly.  So don’t forget to try your search on Southwest, too. 

Google Flights Search

Want to Fly Southwest? You Can’t Search on Google Flights

You can only book flights originating from the US, Canada, UK, France, Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands.  Hopefully they’ll expand the site to include all countries soon!

Unlike searching through online travel agencies or 3rd party sites like Kayak and Orbitz, you can only search for flights with Google.  You can’t add hotels, rental cars, or activities.

Bottom Line

Google Flights is a great tool for finding the cheapest airfares.  It’s fast and you can customize your search by using filters to narrow down your options.

You can NOT actually book tickets with Google Flights.  Once you’ve found the flight you want, book it on the airline’s own website or through an online travel agency like Orbitz or Expedia.

Southwest flights are not included.  And you can only search flights that originate in the US, Canada, UK, France, Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands.

I don’t like paying full price for airline tickets (I’d rather use my miles!) but when I do, I’ll check Google Flights to find the best fares.

How do you feel about Google Flights?

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29 responses to “Save Money and Time Using Google Flights

  1. Same thing applies to their hotel searches.

  2. DeltaGoldLass (nina)

    Hi you two! Happy Spring! I loved your article
    As I recall, there was a google person at
    The Chicago conference last year! Are they
    Returning?
    Cheers. 🙂

  3. I love google flights, I have been using it for about a year now after getting frustrated with sky scanner which often shows misleading fares. I really like the option to view available destinations by map while filtering.

  4. I don’t find ITA Matrix that complicated, but I used to do Google search with all kinds of Boolean parameters, so maybe that’s just me. 🙂 The calendar view of lowest prices is definitely the best feature – some weekends in some places randomly have way higher prices due to local events, so if I’m not committed to a specific weekend, it can be a great money saver.

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  6. Can you use miles to pay for tickets booked this way?

  7. I love the Google Flight tool and have been using it for a couple of years now. Southwest Flights do appear in the Google search without pricing.

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  9. I like to use Google flights to complement ITA matrix. I use ITA matrix’s powerful search tool that lets you tinker with all the cogs and nuts and bolts for your flight. But finding a way to purchase your ticket can be tricky. So after I find a flight on ITA matrix, I’ll input those details into Google flights and try to replicate the fare. If I can get it to show up on Google flights, it (sometimes) is able to point me to a place where I can purchase the ticket.

    The two problems that can (and have!) come up is 1) you can’t get the flight you found in ITA to show up on Google flights, or 2) you can get the flight to show up, but Google flights only directs you to call a travel agent.

    Still, when it works it is convenient!

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  12. Hi,

    I’m wondering, are these upgradable fares via Google Flights? Once you click through Google Flights to United’s website to book, can the cabin be upgraded using United miles?

  13. Hi,

    Thanks for the wonderful tip !

    I have tried using ITA matrix & google flight but the problem is that, it tells me to hive the flight information to a travel agent to issue the ticket. Where would i find a reliable travel agent to issue me the ticket showed on google flight.

    Do you have any recommendations for the travel agents , which one to choose .

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  15. I’m in the same situation. Google Flights has a flight showing up, but the price is only available as “Book with a Travel Agent” Does this really mean just look up any travel agent and they can get this price? Has anyone done this before?

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  17. The only draw back I see is that you can not chose a different travel class for each leg of your journey. If you choose economy for example you must fly both directions in economy.
    It would be nice to be able to choose each flight in its own class.

  18. Staretta spence

    Hello am looking for cheap airfare to state college from Nassau Bahamas pls can some one help me.

  19. I found the information regarding fares on Google Flights completely different from reality so it’s very misleading. Example. I was trying to book a Jet Blue flight to Aruba for next April. The flights and times I wanted for two people came out to $1,300. That all sounds great but you can’t book anything on Google Flights. The next step is to buy the tickets and to do that you are directed to the airline’s website. Jet Blue with the same flights and times was $3,019. That is a $1,719 difference. Travelocity, Orbitz and all the rest were showing fares in the $3,000. My opinion is that this site is useless

  20. I can add another thing – most of the times Google Flights can’t seem to find the cheapest fares… Had no idea why… Isn’t Google the one that knows everything 🙂 Actually, there are interesting analysis about this – Where do you find the best prices on airfare

  21. All i interested only in chip airline tickets N Y – FLL, Thanks in advance, Anatoly.

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  23. THE PRICE CHART FEATURE AND PRICING BY DATE HAS BEEN REMOVED FROM GOOGLE FLIGHTS!!!

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  25. google flight can be confusing for travelers, Like i have been searching for flight leg from Karachi-Cedar Rapids-Chicago-New York- Karachi, Google show the air fare as like $ 676, only option available to book is with American Airlines, i proceeded untill the AA site ask for payment procedure. I called the AA local office in Karachi, for same itenrary they came up with &1400 almost.
    Same itenrary on other sites like orbitz, travelocity etc falls in the same price slab of $1400 e.g. Orbits came up with $1378 , kayak 1329..

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  27. This was an special post with lots of good information.

    Thank you guys!