September 16th, 2011
This week saw the launch of Google Flight Search, a very promising product which offers a practical and fast airline search. Taking off after Google’s controversial acquisition of travel software company ITA, Google Flights is a web-based tool that allows users to find and book flights. ITA, the developer of the airfare search and pricing system QPX that is used by major airlines, was acquired in July by Google for $700 million. ITA’s customers include Kayak, Microsoft, Orbitz, Hotwire and TripAdvisor.
Rolling out in select cities which include New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas and Minneapolis, Participating airlines include Delta, JetBlue, Continental and American. Google users will have broad access to a wide-range of airline search options that offers an improved verticalized experience. While most customers are using Hipmunk, Google Flights is a search speedfreak! The results are instant and upfront, the user interface is easy to navigate as well. The UI is enhanced with filtering tools which helps the user find tickets to match preferences such as duration, price, and cheapest flight by duration. The filter tool acts like Google’s recipe-search tool, for instance, a query like “flights from nyc to la” that will cue the appearance of filtered flights.
While Google Flights is nothing new for online travel, its innovative vision for travel makes the ITA notable. On its blog, Google says that it has more plans to develop ITA.
“We think there is room for more competition and greater innovation. Google has already come up with new ways to organize hard-to-find information like images, newspaper archives, scholarly papers, books and geographic data. Once we’ve completed our acquisition of ITA, we’ll work on creating new flight search tools that will make it easier for you to search for flights, compare flight options and prices and get you quickly to a site where you can buy your ticket.”
ITA’s “matrix search” may hold some clues to the future of Google Flight and Travel search products:
- Geo Search – search by airport code, city, or nearby airport selector
- Event Finder – plan your trip with a listing of events and things to do
- Interactive Calendar – explore date ranges and find the lowest fares
- Real-time Filters – focus on flights that suit your preferences
- Color-coded Time Bars – compare flights at a glance
Google Flight Search looks promising but the lack of creative innovations such as Bing’s Visual Search that enhances travel planning guides with the creative use of search, content and images. But let’s wait and see how it integrates well with Google Wallet and Google Offers.