Google Flights WIll Let You Ask Them Anything

The Google Flights team is hosting a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Thursday, April 16 at 12:00pm – 3:00pm Pacific.

Google’s Most Useful Flight Search Technology

The flight search piece of technology behind Google Flights is the ITA matrix, which they acquired four years ago.

The nice thing about ITA’s consumer website – where you cannot actually buy tickets – is that it allows you powerful search tools. For instance,

  • You can specify what city or cities to connect in. You can specify what airlines or even specific flights to fly (i.e. it will search all options between New York and Bangkok that include American’s Dallas – Hong Kong flight).

  • You can do one-way, roundtrip, or multi-city search. You can search specific dates, a range of dates, or a month-long calendar search.

  • You can specify the currency that it displays airfares and even the city where tickets are sold (so that you can find locally-available fares).

I’ve long found, including prior to the Google acquisition, that ITA Software was the best at putting together complex itineraries and combining flights and fares so that it finds things and at lower cost than other systems (not always, but in general).

It’s clearly a core part of Google’s overall strategy in travel, and in general – organizing and presenting the right information in the most efficient way possible.

Google Integrates Flight Search Into… Search.. and With Your Email

Google can deliver real-time flight results built into Google search queries. And it knows where you’re traveling since it has all of your Gmail. When I Google a flight number it doesn’t just give me the flight status, it pulls up my itinerary that includes that flight.

In other words, Google takes what it knows about me and makes the information personal to me.

How Google Will Change The Way Travel is Purchased in the Future

Online booking put the brick and mortar travel agent out of business for basic flight search (and basic hotel).

But something was lost in the process — the hand holding and guidance that a good (emphasis on good) travel agent used to offer. Should you take that 50 minute connection through Chicago in Winter?

Google is better than anyone else, probably, at mass customization. Taking what they know about you, understanding what you’re really asking, and giving you the right answer.

That holds the potential to really revolutionize the incredibly complex world of travel. Giving consumers the right price and fee information that’s most personally relevant, giving them the flight and hotel choices that best match the consumer’s needs and preferences.

In a world where Priceline and Expedia are becoming your only choices beyond booking direct with a travel provider, this is a potentially huge disruptive innovation.

So Where Is Google Going? And What Have They Learned That We Can Put Into Action Ourselves?

This should be a really interesting ‘Ask Me Anything’ and a useful one for those of us interested in travel.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. They, Google, will also monitor everything that you do, send it to the US Government, pass it to Hillary Clinton (who hired Google’s CTO for her POTUS campaign), and also allow everyone to illegally download/counterfeit all YouTube files and everything else pirated on Google.

    So they can shove their tech up their leftist, Orwellian digital beee-hind. Thanks.

  2. Gary, thanks much both for mentioning the AMA and also for your kind words about our work to make travel more accessible.

    Regarding Matrix… it does offer some features that aren’t currently in Flights, but Flights is a ton faster and likely more useful for the non-travel-geek, so I’d encourage most folks to start their searching there :-).

    Oh, and here’s a helpful URL for the AMA: We’ll redirect this to the AMA thread at 11:30am PT on April 16th. And we’ll be entertaining questions about Flights, Matrix, and also general flights-booking questions like, “When is the best time to buy my tickets?”

    Thanks again!

  3. I totally disagree with Ed’s concern, but I do have a similar one: does it not bother anyone else that private businesses steal and sell and use our private information? I find it horrifying and the fact that young people consider it perfectly normal for businesses to know every detail of their lives is deeply disturbing. I don’t care if the gov’t knows what I’m up to (within reason), but they’re not trying to sell me stuff or sell my information.

  4. @Adam – can you provide insight on why matrix has become less reliable, slower and returning poorer results than ever before? Is Google intentionally degrading the experience to force people to use Flights?

  5. Hi Topgunner,

    We’re a bunch of travel-loving geeks* running Flights and Matrix; forgive my pride here, but we don’t intentionally degrade anything :). We actually overhauled the backend to create Matrix v3 recently, and though there were some issues initially, we think we’ve squashed any bugs that came about as a result of that upgrade. Please do try Matrix again and let us know (via the feedback mechanism there) if you’re still encountering repeatable issues.

    With that said, I’m admittedly somewhat new to the Google Travel team (I’ve been at Google since 2006, but joined Google Travel in 2014). So I’m happy to note we’ll have engineers and product folks who have personally worked on Matrix from the early days in the Reddit AMA, and I expect they can offer more insights.

    *I’ve visited 30+ countries, not counting insane-crazy mileage runs, and my colleagues are similarly passionate about travel and helping travelers. We care a lot about this stuff :).

  6. Unfortunately, our Flights team has to reschedule the AMA. We’ll follow up when we’ve firmed up the new date.

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