Google Flights is an extension of Google, one of the largest search engines on the web.
It’s a very intuitive and easy-to-use tool, but there are several overlooked features that can help you optimise your travel planning.
Google Flights: the search engine
By default, Google Flights will use your location as the departure city and let you fill in the destination, dates, class, number of passengers, and ticket type (round trip, one way, or multi city). If you want to see what rates would be in another country, it could be beneficial touse a VPN.
The first thing you need to know is that the destination box is not limited to one place! In fact, you can enter several cities and Google Flights will help you determine the most affordable way to get to your destination.
For example, for a trip to Italy, you don’t have to limit yourself to the Rome airport if your trip includes several parts of the country. Also, don’t neglect the airports in the surrounding countries to save on your trip; a bus connects Nice to Genoa in 3 hours for as little as 15 €.
Next, the “destination” box is not limited to airports only; you can perform a broader search such as “Europe” or “Oceania” in the same way. This feature of Google Flights is particularly interesting for viewing the least expensive options as entry points to the area or simply to locate a place for a cheaper vacation.
I have often used this tool to go to Europe or Asia; I just have to find an entry at the best price and that does it! Once there, I use the low-cost modes of transportation to go precisely where I would like to spend my vacations.
Finally, if you are both flexible on the destination and the dates, you are in luck! Google Flights allows you to search for a two-week plane ticket anywhere and anytime in the next 6 months.
Once you’ve picked a destination, Google Flights shows you various ways to find the best price if your dates are flexible.
The Google Flights availability calendar appears by default when you enter your travel date information. When you search for a round-trip ticket, the tool gives you an overview of the costs according to the number of days you want. Sometimes going away or coming back within a few days can mean a lot of savings.
If you request a one-way ticket, Google Flights will show the lowest price for each date on the availability calendar. Since Google Flights includes lower costs in the results, they can be easily spotted. These carriers do not operate flights every day and this is a good way to quickly determine the frequency of their routes.
Then, it is possible to visualise the flexible rates using a table like the following:
Google Flights will then present you with the results; the “best flights” will be displayed first according to criteria based on price, flight times, connections, etc.
Then, you can scroll down the list of more results if you can’t find your account. For example, the “best flight” is usually not with a 6 hour layover in Toronto, but it might be more appropriate with the current situation and the chaos of Revenge Travel!
You can then separately select the outbound and return flight that you are happy with.
Google Flights also presents you with a lot of useful information such as the type of plane you will be flying on. This can be very convenient for people who want to choose their plane.
Then, Google Flights shows the type of seat available on the flight. This doesn’t matter much when traveling in economy class, but when you’re spoiling yourself with business class, you usually want to make sure you get the best product for your money or points!
There is a huge difference between a “standard recliner” and a “full recliner”.
Finally, we can also determine the availability in general. For example, the first class suite on the Singapore Airlines A-380 can accommodate up to 6 passengers.
So, in the event that you would like to know how many tickets are available, you can search for 4-6 passengers; if Google Flights shows results, it implies that you have a good chance of being able to book those seats with points since many are not yet sold.
However, ExpertFlyer is superior to Google Flights for this kind of availability information. Since point transfers are sometimes necessary and irreversible, it is preferable to cross-check the information with ExpertFlyer which is a more accurate tool.
The price trend
Google Flights can also help you determine if the ticket fare you have selected is a good price or not. After all, it is a search engine that analyzes billions of data and presents them to you in the form of graphs with the costs for a trip similar to yours:
Or a simple summary on the confirmation and purchase page:
Confirmation and purchase
On the last page, you will find a summary of the chosen itinerary and links to the places to make the reservation. That’s right, Google Flights only does the search for you; you don’t make the purchase with them, but you will be redirected to a booking platform.
Also, the conditions specific to the ticket you have selected are also listed such as the different fare options, baggage allowance, or cancellation terms.
It is worth noting that there are as many third party sites as there are official sites that appear in the choices for booking your flight.
These links are very convenient as they will take you directly to the payment page to book your flight. This way, you don’t need to re-enter the data to proceed with the purchase.
Be careful with third-party sites; it is always easier to handle a problem when the booking is made with the airline.
Google Flights' different filters
We can optimize our search and travel planning using the various filters on Google Flights. As it is a search engine, we want it to find what we are looking for!
You can select one or more filters at the same time either :
- Ticket splitting
This first filter indicates the number of stops on your itinerary. By default, Google Flights will search for flights without looking at the number of stops; sometimes the cheapest flights are in multiple segments.
So, it’s handy to be able to sort the results to highlight only direct flights, either by preference or by convenience, to reduce the risk of missing your connection due to a flight delay!
On the other hand, if one wishes to take advantage of Aeroplan’s stopover sweets pots or a Oneworld multi-partner ticket, one can see the routes that can be made and determine whether or not one would like to stop there on the way.
What is the difference between a stopover and a connection?
A stopover is the time you spend at the airport between two flights, while a connection is a flight you must take to reach your final destination if there is no direct flight.
For example, on a ticket from Montreal to Paris to Nice, you have a stopover in Paris while you wait for your connecting flight to Nice.
The “Company” tab allows you to choose to display results according to airline alliances or to include or exclude certain airlines.
This filter is particularly advantageous when booking using points. Since the fare on partners is fixed in the Aeroplan program, it may be interesting to use Google Flights to find all the options to get you there excluding Air Canada from the results.
For tickets with points, you should not look at the price of the ticket, but at the possible routes; we do not intuitively think to look at certain routes especially when they are positioned far down the list because of the price.
However, the cost in money does not matter if you are aiming for award tickets and it is a good way to discover connections. On the other hand, Flight Connections also provides this information and presents it in a more visual way.
However, one checked bag changes the fare on the same flight to $419.
On international flights, one checked bag is usually included in the standard fare. Then the checked baggage option disappears from the filter on these flights; only the carry-on option can be selected.
However, be sure to read the terms and conditions of the ticket you’ve selected on the Google Flights summary page; the base fare does not include checked baggage, even on an international flight.
Finally, if you are an Aeroplan credit card holder and you are traveling on a flight operated by Air Canada, you can choose the lowest traffic without having to pay for a checked bag! In fact, a card like the TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Card offers a free checked bag as a benefit!
This is actually a very good card to keep for the long term; the $139 annual fee more than makes up for it. You can always take the cheapest flight and you will save on luggage for every flight! Additionally, this benefit applies to you and up to 8 people on your reservation!
Google Flights also allows you to sort the flights that best fit your schedule. For example, you might want to leave in the evening after your work day or at times that are more convenient for traveling with children.
Personally, I’ve always used this Google Flights feature to maximize my time at my destination by taking a flight that arrives in the morning and brings me home late in the evening.
When Google Flights displays results, you can see that there are some flights that are classified as “less polluting” and others that are more so; it’s up to you to decide whether or not the carbon footprint is important.
Inevitably, having a connecting flight increases our carbon footprint since you are taking two flights to get there.
Google Flights calculates the carbon emission this way:
The CO₂ emission estimates take into account the origin and destination of the flight, the type of aircraft, and the number of seats in each class.
Certain factors, such as fuel-efficient aircraft and shorter routes, generally generate lower CO₂ emissions.
Here you can choose to avoid certain airports on your way. The connections filter is especially interesting when you want to make a stop in a particular city.
For example, you might intentionally put in a stopover in Cairo while en route to Turkey. So, you can take advantage of this stop to go and see the pyramids in Egypt! The filter allows you to deselect all other airports with a single click.
Similarly, if you are building a point-to-point route with an Aeroplan stop, Google Flights will help you determine the possibilities. Unlike the “stopover” function which dictates the number of flight segments, this filter takes care of selecting (or avoiding) certain airports.
All flights are listed on Google Flights, this includes flights with 3 stopovers that take you to Portugal in 35 hours compared to a direct 7 hour flight.
You can then determine the maximum acceptable hours for your trip.
The last filter you can choose on Google Flights is ticket splitting; whether it’s a one-way, round-trip, or multi-destination ticket, Google Flights will search for the most economical combinations for you.
Therefore, it is possible that the most optimal way to book your ticket is to purchase two separate segments; that is, two separate tickets.
Ticket splitting is enabled by default on Google Flights; if you are not interested in this feature and always prefer to purchase your tickets on the same reservation, you can uncheck it.
Google Flights also indicates if it is possible to buy both tickets on the same reservation or not. However, when buying two separate tickets on the same booking, they are often third party sites and I strongly suggest booking directly with the airlines. In case of a problem, it will be easier to manage without an intermediary (the third party site).
If you purchase tickets on different reservations, the carriers are not obligated to communicate with each other; in case of missing the connecting flight, you will have to contact the insurance company.
Be sure to space your flights appropriately to qualify for coverage. For example, the National Bank’s World Elite Mastercard® insurance protects against this situation if the first flight is scheduled to arrive at least 4 hours before the departure of the next flight.
Google Flights is a free and very easy to use tool to find cheap airline tickets.
If you use it a lot, you can master it very quickly. Google Flights has always been an essential in my arsenal when planning a trip.