Google Flights has quietly been Google’s answer to sites like Skyscanner and Kayak for a while now, but it’s mostly offered the same services as those other sites — aggregating flight tickets to help find the cheapest or most direct route for trips. This week, Google Flights is hitting cruising altitude by adding some powerful new features that only Google can pull off, thanks to their access to copious amounts of data and, more importantly, the resources to analyze it all.
Before now, Google Flights could also let you know when ticket prices for a flight you had your eye on were about to go up, but the feature was as limited as it was on other services. That feature is getting a huge upgrade this week, as Google leverages its ability to create predictive algorithms. Call it the Minority Report of airline services — when searching for flights, Google can not only retrieve airline prices, they can predict when those tickets are likely to go up or down in price. Google can also look for other nearby airports to see if there’s anything cheaper there, now or in the future.
In the end, Google Flights should be able to tell you exactly when to book tickets, which airline to use, and which airport to fly out of and into to guarantee the best price. That’s hours of manual research over many weeks distilled into seconds. Google’s predictive software is just doing that research constantly and automatically.
Google Flights can do the same kind of things for hotels. By monitoring all hotel room rates over time, Google can determine whether or not a hotel is more or less expensive than usual on any given night. That should help travelers plan trips around cheaper hotel rates.
It’s possible to set up alerts, too, so you can know exactly when prices for hotels or flights are about to go up. All told, Google Flights is a pretty scary service for those other travel sites — no one can crunch data like Google can.