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Sunday, January 24th 2021

"I'm a travel junkie who's hooked on deals from YYC." - Chris Myden

Google launches Flight Search for Canadians - my thoughts

To give a quick recap, a while back Google paid $700 million for a company called ITA Software which is the largest source of airfare price data in the world.

Both travelers and the travel industry awaited with baited breath to see what the digital giant could do with such data. At first the results were seemingly underwhelming, especially for Canadians, who found that our departure cities were not even included in the launch of Google Flights.

But Google recently added Canadian departure cities as an option, giving Canadians a chance to play around with it. Here are my thoughts on it so far:

1. It's never been faster or easier for a person to look at real-time airfare data.

One of Google's biggest achievements here is just how quickly a person can access real-time airfare prices. You might be used to the agonizingly slow process of looking up airfares on your favorite travel site, changing your dates, searching again, trying a different destination, searching again, etc. With Google Flights it's near instantaneous.

2. A more complete set of destinations would be nice.

Try zooming in on Europe and you'll see that only 1 or 2 airports in each country are shown. It would be nice as you zoomed in further if Google would show you all the airports. I'm sure the Google Engineers will get to that eventually.

3. The Calendar feature is perhaps the most powerful feature so far.

Beside the return date box, you'll see a calendar icon. Click on that and you can see what the fares look like for the upcoming year.

For example, let's say you tried looking up a one week trip from Calgary to Orlando in September. Click on the calendar icon and you can see what the real-time fare prices are for every other possible one week combination of the upcoming year. (Scroll down to Christmas time to see how they jump up).

Never before has this much real-time airfare data been available for the consumer to browse at once, not even close.

4. It's another weapon for 'deal-based' travelers

I do think there's a growing segment of travelers who base their travel decisions on the deal itself as opposed to picking a destination first and focusing solely on one destination. Map-based tools such as this are a great way to browse airfares around the world at a glance and see where the best deals are currently located.

5. The data is not perfect, nor complete.

The displayed data is only as good as it's source, and while the ITA data powering Google Flights is certainly massive, it has been known to not always be 100% complete or always the most accurate. It's also been my own observation that the ITA data has gone a little downhill over the past year or so.

Still, I do think this is the way travel search is headed. I think one day soon we'll look back and laugh at how long it used to take us to find what we were looking for in the world of travel.

And I think this is just the beginning, as now other companies will have to be a little more innovative with their travel search technology to try and compete with what Google is offering.

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