What Is Google Flights?
Although this tool lets you search for, compare, and purchase flights, it’s not technically an online travel agency like Orbitz or Priceline. Rather, it’s a highly effective metasearch engine that saves you the step of searching each airline and website individually.
You can compare routes, prices, times, airlines, and more to find the cheapest, most convenient, or preferred flight between any airports.
This tool finds fares and then directs you to the airline’s website or an OTA, so make sure to use a card that earns bonus points on travel purchases, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (2pts/$1)
There are a couple different ways to use the tool, including 2 primary functions that have a few components:
Regular flight search
Below, we’ll go through each of these tools so you know how to use them.
While the other features that Google Flights offers are definitely useful, its basic flight search functionality is the heart and soul of this tool. It’s not quite perfect and doesn’t have full access to every airline — specifically, it can’t access prices for Southwest Airlines — but otherwise, it’s the best way there is to search for flights.
Google has a relatively minimalist search screen, but it offers advanced options as well. To use all of Google Flights’ new search capabilities, you will need to visit the Google Flights homepage and select “Try Now” on the right side of the page to use the new beta version.
Once on the new search page, just enter your origin, destination, and dates. (Note that if you have location services enabled, the city is already filled in for you.)
Google Flights Home
The Google Flights search screen
Because Google is so fast, results will start popping up for a default set of dates as soon as you’ve entered an origin and a destination. If that doesn’t happen automatically, just hit return or enter on your keyboard when you’re ready.
As you enter dates, a calendar pops up showing the lowest available prices for dates that month.
Google Flights Calendar
For example, in the above screenshot, I see that I can save $20 by flying a day later.
After you’ve picked dates, click “Done” and the results will be listed under the search area. The top result, with its price highlighted in green, is typically the least expensive flight. There are also a few other flights included in a “Best Flights” box — according to Google, these itineraries are chosen:
“…to give you the best trade-off between price, duration, number of stops, and sometimes other factors such as amenities and baggage fees.”
This means the prices in that box (other than the low price highlighted in green) may be higher than other options lower down in the results. However, you can filter the results by price, departure, arrival, duration, and more.
Google Best Flights
Results typically show a few “Best Flights” as well as tips if you can save a lot by traveling on a different day.
Above the best flights results, you’ll see four boxes including Dates, Price Graph, Airports, and Tips. Under Dates, you will be shown if cheaper prices are available on other travel dates near yours. The Price Graph will allow you to see a pricing trend going for dates before and after those you have selected. The Airports box will allow you to select other airports near the one selected to compare prices. Finally, the Tips box will bring you to a page that might include an option to book a class higher than selected, a guide to the destination city, and a link ot the Google Tips app.
There are a few filters you can use to narrow your search. Click the links under the date fields to select the number of stops, price, times for both outbound and inbound flights, and airlines.
Google Search Filters
If you click “more” in the filters list, you’ll see a few other options. The first is self-explanatory: use the slider to select a maximum duration of your flight. This is useful if you’re flying far away with connections, but don’t want to spend too long traveling.
For example, a flight to Asia may be cheapest with layovers, but if those are lengthy your travel time could be more than 40 hours. Use this filter to keep the duration lower. If there are no results because you set the duration too low, you can always change it later.
Another option is whether to always show or always hide “separate tickets.” In a few rare cases, it may be cheaper to book 2 one-way tickets rather than a round-trip. By default, these are always shown, but if for any reason you don’t want them, you can just click “hide.”
Use the filters under the date fields to narrow down and refine the results.
After you enter locations and dates, you’ll find a few more items if you click the “more” link under the search fields. Exactly what shows up depends on the flights you’re looking at — one item allows you to specify where you want to connect if you have a flight with