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.