In all of the flight alert emails we send, we recommend that members use Google Flights to search for the cheapest dates for their trip. This is one of the tools we use the most, and where most of our flight searches start.
Since its inception in 2011 Google Flights has added plenty of new features and improved existing one, making it one of the most powerful, feature-packed flight search engines on the internet. Here we will tell you all about what Google Flights is, what it can do, and how to use it.
What is Google Flights?
Google flights is a flight booking search engine that allows you to search for flights from more than 300 airlines and Online Travel Agencies (OTAs). It offers a range of features that makes it one of the best tools to use when looking for cheap flights.
Why use Google Flights?
Google Flights is a great place to start your search for cheap flights because of its versatility and ease of use. Here are some of the specific reasons for using google flights.
- Fast, comprehensive searches – By using Google flights you can quickly get an overview of what’s available. You can search up to 7 origin airports and 7 departure airports and see months’ worth of fares in seconds.
- Easily sort results – You can easily filter searches for things like your preferred airline, number of stops, and departure time.
- Finding the rate dates – The calendar-view, price graph, and map-view features all make it easy to compare the cheapest prices for months in advance.
While Google Flights is great for these things, it does have a few drawbacks such as:
- Not always the cheapest – Google flights doesn’t show the prices for every OTA and sometimes you can find cheaper prices when you search for the same dates on Skyscanner or Momondo.
- Doesn’t find many error fares – Most error fares only appear on the smaller OTAs that Google Flights doesn’t search for. Skyscanner and Momondo are better for this as well.
- Sometimes the price is false – Sometimes when you try to click through to book the flight, it is no longer available or the price has increased. This is quite rare and it can happen on all flight search engines.
How to use Google Flights
Now that you know why and when to use Google Flights, let’s explore how to use Google Flights and its features to find cheap flights.
To change your settings to a different currency or language, click on the ‘Hamburger’ icon (three horizontal lines) in the top-left hand corner of the home page. This will bring up the main menu where you will find ‘Change language’ and ‘Change currency’ options.
Click either of these to take you to a menu where you can choose a different language or menu. Alternatively, you can find these options by scrolling to the very bottom of the page.
Search multiple cities
On the homepage start by typing in your departure and arrival airports. You can type in a city such as NYC to search for all airports in that city or just search for individual airports such as JFK.
Google flights allows you to do multiple searches at once by selecting up to 7 destination airports, and up to 7 arrival airports. This is incredibly useful for quickly searching the cheapest destinations.
To do this, type in the airport code separated by a comma. If you do not know the airport code, start typing in the city and then click the box next to the airport you want.
For example, imagine you want to fly from Sydney to Europe, and you don’t really mind where in Europe you go. First, type Sydney in the departure airport to limit your search for flights departing from Sydney.
Now for the destination city, you could select LHR, CDG, MAD, DUB, FRA, FCO, AMS to search for the cheapest flights to London, Paris, Madrid, Dublin, Frankfurt, Rome, and Amsterdam.
When you select your dates and click search, Google flights will search for all flights to those destinations and start by showing you the best flights available, based on price and route. You will be able to scroll through and find all the flights on those dates, to the destinations you selected.
Search multiple dates
As well as searching for multiple departure and destination airports, Google flights also lets you search for multiple dates at the same time. Maybe you want to search for all the destinations from above but you want to know the cheapest dates to fly.
Once you complete your initial search, click on the calendar icon where the dates are selected. This will bring up a calendar view that shows you all the cheapest prices for that month.
The cheapest prices are highlighted in green making it easy to see instantly which are the best dates to fly. To search for prices in other months hit the arrows on the left and right of the calendar.
You can also use the arrows at the bottom of the calendar to search for trips of different durations.
How to know if you've got a good deal on Google Flights
Flight Insights is a feature on Google flights that helps you to instantly see if you are getting a good deal. It shows you the average price for the dates you have selected and is only available when searching between 2 cities.
When you reach the search results page there will be a text box that tells you if the price is low, average, or high and how much more or less than average it is.
For example if we search for a deal we sent out to Vienna recently we can see that Google Flights tells us the price is ‘low’ and is $501 cheaper than average.
The colour-coded bar shows easily highlights if the flight price is above average, average, or below average, and Google flights tells you how much the flights for these dates usually costs.
There is also an option here to look at the ‘price history’, where you can look at a graph that shows you the flight price over the past months.
If you are looking for flights close to a certain date, but have some flexibility, Date Grid is the best feature to use. This allows you to see prices for flights within 7 days of your departure and return dates.
The grid will show the cheapest prices in green and the most expensive dates in red. This allows you to quickly see if adjusting the departure or return date by a few days could save you a lot of money.
The Price Graph is useful for comparing prices longer-term. A bar chart is used to show you prices over a 2 month period and helps you to see any price trends for that flight. You can use the arrows to look further into the future, and also change the duration of the trip.
How to use map-view on Google flights
This is one of our favourite features to use on Google Flights. It allows you to view on a map all of the cheap flights across a country, region or continent. To use this properly you will need to be on a desktop.
To view the map, start a search using your departure airports and the dates you would like to fly. In the destination box, you can enter a country, region or continent to get a map view for that place. Alternatively, leave it blank, and you can scroll anywhere you want in the world to see cheap flights from that place.
Zoom in anywhere on the map to see more cheap flights from there.
The map view initially will show you the flight prices for the dates you have selected. If you are more flexible with your dates, you can click on flexible dates. This lets you search for whole months, or even you can select 1 or 2-week trips for any time in the next 6 months. This is perfect for when you have plenty of flexibility
Filter search results in Google Flights
Being able to filter your search results is one of the most helpful features in Google flights. Once you complete a search, underneath the date box you will find a selection of filters including:
- If a carry-on bag is included
- Number of Stops
- Which Airlines
- Maximum Price
- Time of Flight departure
- Which connecting Airport
- Duration of stopover
- Flight Duration
How to set fare alerts on Google Flights
There is a very useful tool on Google flights that allows you to track flight prices. To track prices you need to search for a specific route and a specific date – you cannot be flexible with dates or destinations if you want to track prices.
Once you have completed a search look for the ‘track prices’ button on the results page and toggle it on. Now you will receive an email from Google every time the price of one of these flights changes. The problem with this is you can expect to receive many emails because there are so many flights and the price changes frequently.
You will also be able to see a graph showing the prices of the flight since the day that you started tracking the price. This can be useful to identify trends and see if the flight is getting more or less expensive as it nears the departure date.
If you only want to track one specific flight with an airline, click onto that flight specifically and then click on track prices, and you will only receive updates for that specific flight.
To access any of your flight alerts, click the hamburger icon in the top left to access the menu, and then click on ‘tracked flight prices’ to see a list of all your flight alerts.
Google Flights gives you the option to share your itinerary. This is useful if you are looking for flights on behalf of someone else or if you just want to share a great deal you have found with a friend. To share a flight, click the share button above the price of your flight. You will then have the option to share via Email, Facebook, Twitter, or Copy Link.
You can also send the flight information to yourself to view at a later date. Click the ‘send to yourself’ button next to the share button and this will send the details to your Gmail account.
Explore destinations with price
You can also use the Google Flights Map view to find flights based on a maximum price. To do this enter your departure airport and dates into the search box and leave the destination box empty.
Now when you reach the map-view use the price slider to select the maximum price you want to pay for flights on these dates. Scroll around the map to see all the places that you can fly to for less than the price you have set for the given dates.
If you want to be more flexible you can also search for flights less than a certain price for any given dates within the next 6 months. This is very useful when you are flexible with dates and destinations but on a strict budget.
How to search for business/first-Class fares on Google Flights
Once you have selected your dates and entered the destination and arrival airports, you can change the class of fare you want. To do this click above the search box where it says ‘economy’, and you can change it to look for premium economy, business or first-class fares instead.
How to book a flight through Google Flights
When you have finished searching and find a flight you want to book, simply click on it. If you are searching for return flights, at this point you will be asked to select a return flight.
Now you will see both of your flights listed and the total price (including taxes) listed. At this point, Google flights often tells you what baggage you have included, although we recommend double-checking with the airline directly.
To book the flight, scroll down to the section that says booking options. Here you will find a list of the various websites where you can book your flight.
They are listed with the cheapest first. Sometimes it will be the cheapest option to book directly with the airline and sometimes you will find an OTA such as expedia or Trip.com are cheaper.
When you decide who you want to book with click ‘select’ and you will be taken to that website to complete your booking.
Please note that you will never book directly with Google flights. Google flights is a search engine only and will just redirect you to another site to book flights.
It is at this point of your search we recommend you to run a search on Skyscanner and Momondo. You may find that you can book cheaper with a different OTA not listed on Google Flights. As we mentioned earlier, Google flights does not show prices for a lot of the smaller OTAs that Momondo and Skyscanner do, so it is worth a look.
What to do when the flight price changes on Google Flights
Sometimes you will find a flight on Google flights and try to book it, However, when you go to book the flight, the price has either increased in price or disappeared altogether. When this happens you can:
- Search those dates on Skyscanner and see if you can book there.
- Search those dates on Momondo and see if you can book there.
- Change the dates by a day or two and see if you can find the same price flights.
Sometimes you will find that none of these options work and the price is simply not available anymore. When this happens you will have to start your search again for other dates or pay the higher price.
Does Google Flights have the cheapest prices?
Google Flights doesn’t sell flights and therefore doesn’t offer any prices of its own. Instead, it searches prices from the Airlines and the biggest OTAs. As Google flights doesn’t search for some of the smaller OTAs, it may be possible to find cheaper flights elsewhere.
Our suggestion is to use Google flights for an initial search and to find some flights you like the look of. Google flights is great for this because you can perform vast searches really quickly.
Once you have found a flight you want to book, go to Skyscanner and Momondo and enter your dates on those websites. Sometimes you will be able to find the same flight for a cheaper price.