We’ve been waiting for Google to become more aggressive in the travel space for years finally doing something to disrupt online travel booking. For a long time they would help you plan, find deals, and send you to Expedia or Priceline to book.
Now Expedia and others complain that Google doesn’t just send business along to them, but consumers are now the ones who benefit.
Between August 13 and September 2 when Google predicts an airfare won’t drop, and you book it, they’ll keep checking for lower prices up until departure and automatically refund the difference if it does.
Here’s how you’ll know a flight is eligible for this price guarantee:
And a sample price rebate email:
It’ll be interesting to see what Google learns during this test, how much this costs them, and how much incremental business they’re able to drive — which we’re unlikely to learn the answer to until we see what Google’s followup strategy looks like. Clearly, however, they’re moving aggressively into the travel booking space and have the potential to disrupt major players.
There’s something fundamentally wrong, I think, with the incumbent large online travel agency websites. In my own experience, and from emails I get from readers, my sense is:
- They provide poor customer service, often long hold times for agents without the capability to help with much of anything that goes wrong with a booking.
- They don’t do a very good job of helping customers identify the best trip for their needs. There’s very little guidance on the best connection, what flight experience is going to match a customer’s preferences, or what hotel they’ll enjoy.
- Instead customers are either left to their own devices to pick whatever is out there (so pretty much zero value add) or worse options – especially for hotels – that are presented based on which hotels will pay a premium for consumer eyeballs rather than what hotel will best meet a customer’s needs or what will give them the best price.
Wouldn’t it Be Nice if Expedia Dancers Processed Automatic Refunds? Flickr: Juggernautco
Online travel agency websites complain that Google is delivering travel results directly to customers instead of sending people to their websites where they can collect a toll (commission) on the transaction. And they want the government to step in and force Google to deliver customers to them.
I say that online travel agency websites should be better, should add value to customers, so that customers will want and prefer the service that they’re providing.
We need Expedia companies, and Priceline companies, to respond to competition and improve — not to run to the government to shut Google down from offering better services to consumers.