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Guide to Finding Cheap Flights with Google Flights 🤑

Learn how to use Google Flights to find the best deals and the most cheap flights ✈️ Discover the pros and cons of Google Flights

Google Flights has become one of the most popular flight search engines. With its easy-to-use interface, powerful search capabilities, and handy tools like price tracking, it’s a go-to for many travelers looking to book airfare for lowest price. But is Google Flights really the best site for finding cheap flights? This comprehensive guide examines the pros, cons, features, and limitations of Google Flights to help you decide if it’s the right flight search site for you.

What is Google Flights?

Google Flights is a flight search engine owned and operated by Google. It allows you to easily search for flight options across hundreds of airlines and online booking sites.

Google Flights works by tapping into travel booking databases known as GDS (global distribution systems). It compiles flight availability and pricing data in real time and displays it in an easy-to-read format on its site.

Unlike online travel agencies (OTAs) like Expedia or Travelocity that actually sell tickets, Google Flights is just a search engine. You can’t book directly through Google Flights. Instead, it refers you to airline and OTA sites to complete ticket purchase.

Pros of Using Google Flights

There are many benefits that make Google Flights a top choice among savvy travelers:

Fast searching

Google Flights provides nearly instant search results, often delivering a year’s worth of flight data in seconds. The interface is lightning fast, making it easy to modify searches on the fly.

Powerful filters

Google Flights has an array of filters that let you fine tune your search results. This includes stops, duration, airlines, airports, times, and more.

Price tracking

Google Flights lets you track flight prices and get email alerts when prices change. This helps you pounce when airfare drops.

Explore map

Google Flights’ explore map shows airfares visually on a worldwide map, letting you easily find the cheapest destinations from your departure city.

Calendar view

When searching for dates, a popup calendar shows the cheapest travel dates highlighted in green. This makes it easy to find the best deals.

Multi-city booking

Planning a complex international itinerary with multiple destinations? Google Flights makes it simple to book open-jaw and multi-city flights.

Price tips

Google Flights offers guidance on whether current fares seem high or low compared to typical pricing. This helps you know if you’re getting a good deal.

Emission estimates

Results include the estimated carbon emissions for each flight, allowing you to factor environmental impact into your booking decision.

Cons of Google Flights

While Google Flights excels in many areas, it also has some limitations to be aware of:

No Southwest Airlines

Google Flights does not include Southwest Airlines flight options or prices in results. You’ll need to check Southwest’s site directly.

Not all airlines included

Besides Southwest, a few smaller international carriers are also missing from Google Flights results.

No absolute lowest fares

While Google Flights compiles data from many sources, it doesn’t necessarily show every single available fare. Some OTAs may have exclusive deals that undercut Google Flight prices.

Ghost bookings

On rare occasions, Google Flights shows a cheap fare that’s no longer bookable. The price visible is outdated.

No booking on site

You can’t actually book flights directly on Google Flights. You have to click through to airline and OTA sites.

No customer support

Since it’s just a search engine, Google Flights does not offer customer service or support for flight bookings. You have to deal with the airline or OTA.

Limited mobile functionality

Some useful features like the explore map are unavailable or limited on the Google Flights mobile site and app.

Key Features of Google Flights

Let’s explore some of the key features that make Google Flights a powerful flight search engine:

Search by Map

Google Flights has an interactive map view that lets you visually browse flights worldwide. Simply zoom and click on any city to see price estimates from your departure airport. This makes it easy to discover cheap destinations.

Airport Search

Most flight search sites only allow you to select one departure and arrival airport. But Google Flights lets you input multiple airports in each search box, up to 7 total for each. This casts a wider net for flight options.

Calendar View

When entering dates, Google Flights shows a popup calendar highlighting the cheapest travel dates in green. The calendar defaults to a two month view, but you can click the arrows to see pricing further out.

Filter Options

Google Flights offers numerous filters to refine your search results. This includes stops, duration, departure and arrival time, emissions, and more. You can also filter by airline and exclude those you want to avoid.

Price Tracking

One of the best features of Google Flights is price tracking. Just click the toggle button next to any flight and you’ll get email alerts if the fare changes. No more constantly re-searching!

Split Bookings

Google Flights shows options to “split” your itinerary between different airlines or sites. This displays any potential cost savings compared to booking the entire trip in one place.

Price Tips

For many routes, Google Flights offers guidance on whether current fares seem high, typical, or low compared to historical pricing. This information helps you assess if you’re getting a good deal.

How to Use Google Flights

Using Google Flights to search, compare, and book flights is straightforward. Here are some tips:

  • Search wide: Input multiple departure and arrival airports, up to 7 each, to cast a wide net for flight options.
  • Check the calendar: Popup calendar shows cheapest travel dates highlighted in green at a glance.
  • Use filters: Refine results with stops, duration, emissions, and other handy filters.
  • Track prices: Click the toggle button to track select flights and get email alerts when prices drop.
  • Split if cheaper: Consider split bookings if Google Flights shows potential savings over booking together.
  • Check price tips: Guidance on high/low fares helps you know if you’re getting a good deal.
  • Book direct: Use Google Flights links to book directly on airline sites whenever possible.

Pros vs Cons: Is Google Flights the Best Site?

Given its powerful search capabilities yet limitations in some areas, is Google Flights the hands-down best flight search site?

For most travelers, Google Flights is an excellent starting point for flight searching. Features like fast searching, customizable filters, calendar views, and price tracking make it easy to find affordable airfare.

However, it helps to supplement Google Flights with other search sites. If you need Southwest Airlines or have dates flexible enough to exploit mistake fares, checking sites like Skyscanner and Momondo may find you savings that Google Flights misses.

Additionally, once you’ve found a flight, always compare the Google Flights price when booking direct with the airline. Occasionally Google Flights data doesn’t sync perfectly with updated airline prices.

So while it may not be absolutely 100% perfect, Google Flights is a top choice for quickly searching dozens of airlines and travel sites to discover flight deals. It makes flight search simpler for the average traveler.

Frequently Asked Questions About Google Flights

Here are answers to some common questions about Google Flights:

How does Google Flights work?

Google Flights is a flight search engine, not a booking site. It compiles flight data from airlines and OTAs using global distribution systems. Google organizes this flight availability info in a user-friendly interface to show you options. You then book directly with an airline or OTA site, not Google Flights.

Why are some airlines missing from Google Flights?

A few airlines like Southwest intentionally do not share their flight data with Google Flights and other third-party sites. Some smaller international carriers are also absent. Google Flights cannot show flights if airlines block their data.

Why doesn’t Google Flights have the absolute lowest fares?

Google Flights doesn’t necessarily show every single flight fare that exists. Some smaller OTAs have exclusive deals that undercut prices listed on Google Flights. However, Google Flights does compile data from hundreds of sources to show most available fares.

Is it safe to book flights via Google Flights links?

Yes, Google Flights is safe to use. The links simply direct you to airline and trusted OTA websites to complete booking. There is no risk booking via Google Flights suggested sites versus searching those sites directly.

Can you get a refund for Google Flights bookings?

Google Flights is not involved in bookings. Refunds must be handled directly between the traveler, airline, and/or OTA used to book. Google Flights does not handle payments or process refunds. Check airline and OTA policies before booking.

Does Google Flights show baggage fees?

Google Flights includes basic ticket prices and taxes. Baggage fees and other add-ons are not factored in. However, it provides an option to enter the number of checked bags.

When is Google Flights the Best Flight Search Option?

Google Flights excels in certain situations that play to its strengths as a flight search tool:

Flexible travel dates: The calendar view and price tracking features make Google Flights ideal for travelers who have wiggle room on their departure date or trip length. You can easily monitor prices across dates to find the biggest savings.

Comparing multiple airline options: With its massive flight inventory, Google Flights is great for comparing fares across different airlines and alliance networks.

Searching multiple airports: Planning a trip between regions instead of specific cities? Google Flights makes it simple to see flight options between multiple origin and destination airports.

Complex international itineraries: Google Flights simplifies the process of searching open-jaw and multi-city international flights with its intuitive interface.

Environmentally-conscious travelers: If you want to factor carbon emissions into your booking considerations, this data is readily available in Google Flights results.

When Should You Use Alternatives to Google Flights?

While Google Flights is a top flight search engine, there are cases where other search sites have advantages:

Flying Southwest Airlines: Since Southwest doesn’t share its prices, you’ll need to check Google Flights for scheduling, then Southwest.com directly for fares.

Finding mistake fares: If you have extremely flexible dates, niche sites like Secret Flying and Thrifty Traveler can help you snap up super cheap mistake fares faster.

Using miles or points: If paying with airline miles or credit card points, you’ll need to book directly through the airline site or credit card travel portal, not via Google Flights.

Group or family travel: OTAs like Expedia and Priceline offer bundled packages for group travel that may beat assembling itineraries yourself via Google Flights.

Travelers outside the US: Local OTAs in different countries may offer better regional flight availability than Google Flights.

Tips for Getting the Most Cheap Flight via Google Flights

Follow these tips to maximize your chances of finding cheap flights on Google Flights:

  • Cast a wide net with airport codes and flexible dates
  • Try searches from both your home city and destination airport
  • Check the Explore Map for visual price scanning
  • Toggle on email price alerts for your ideal flights
  • Read Google’s tips to assess if current fares are high vs typical pricing
  • Check both roundtrip and one-way flights
  • Consider open-jaw or multi-city bookings for complex international itineraries
  • Always compare Google Flights prices directly on airline sites before booking
  • Book early morning flights which are often cheaper
  • Use incognito browsing to avoid personalized Google results

While not perfect, using strategies like these will aid your quest for flight deals via Google Flights.

The Bottom Line

Google Flights provides an immensely helpful service to travelers as a powerful, easy-to-use flight search engine. Its speed, flexibility, and price tracking capabilities make it a top choice for finding affordable airfare.

However, Google Flights doesn’t necessarily show every single flight option or lowest fare available. Savvy travelers will want to supplement it with direct airline searches and other specialty flight search sites for certain situations. But for most people, Google Flights is the best first step to take when seeking cheap flights online.

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