I’ve been using Google Flights for many years now and it is my go-to place to get cheap fares.
I saw the question ‘Is Google Flights Reliable?’ come up recently in a travel forum I’m in so, having replied there, I thought I’d answer here too.
In my experience Google Flights is reliable. You are not actually booking a ticket through Google, it is doing what Google usually does, which is being a search engine. You will sometimes get additional fees when you get to the airline website, such as costs for checked luggage, but outside of that, I have found the prices they show to be reliable and accurate.
There are some examples on the internet of people having been linked to deals which are no longer available, but I have never personally had this experience.
The other question on their reliability has been their use of third-party booking providers. I wish Google Flights would implement a filter to book directly with airlines only, but it is currently not possible.
So, in my experience, I think Google Flights is reliable, but if you have any evidence either way then feel free to put it in the comments at the bottom of this page.
Is Google Flights Reliable? (Pros)
It Includes Credit Card Surcharges & Fees
Here is a great example of the reliability of Google Flights.
I’ve put in for a ten-day trip to Tasmania from Melbourne, which gives me a quote of $374 with Virgin Australia themselves being the cheapest.
So let’s see this through to the point of booking to see how reliable Google Flights is with this price.
Having gone through to the Virgin Australia site and filled out all the details, this is the final price. You can see a payment surcharge was included at the end, which Google Flights accounted for making the total price exactly what I saw through the search engine.
This is the lowest price possible. I made sure not to include any extras such as seat choice, checked baggage or insurance and it came through exactly the same as Google Flights.
It Links To Third Party Agencies
Another feature I like about Google Flights which I think makes it reliable is it links to other flight booking agencies.
As I said in the intro, Google Flights is just a search engine, so it really doesn’t care who you book with as it’s making all its money from the advertising it does on the site.
For example, Google Flights will link out to other flight collators such as Kiwi.com to give you the best prices.
It doesn’t link to everywhere though and I often find Kayak.com actually comes through with slightly cheaper prices as they include a couple more travel agents on their list.
Depending on the agency, these may not always be the best quality, but I think it’s good for Google’s transparency that they show you as much as they can.
You Get The Option To Book Directly With The Airline
Unlike third-party travel sites such as Expedia, Google Flights is just a search engine, so often what it’s going to find you is the best price with the airline itself.
This is the best-case scenario, as with the airline you have more options if things change. Cancellations and delays are easier to deal with once you’ve booked directly.
There are lots of other search engines that deal with flights such as Kiwi, Expedia and Kayak, but all of these get you to book directly with the website, making them (in my opinion) less reliable than Google Flights, even if you find a cheaper price.
If you look at the Kayak screenshot below for example, even though the cheapest flight is with Singapore Airlines, all of the options for booking are with third party privedors, not with the airline itself.
When repeating the same search with Google flights you can see it gives me the option to book directly with Singapore Airlines, though admittedly at a slightly more expensive price.
But in this post we aren’t talking just about cost, we’re talking about reliability, so I think this makes Google Flights more reliable.
Google Flights isn’t the only website to do this, there are thousands of flight search websites out there. For example, Skyscanner allows you to book directly with the airline. So whilst it’s not a unique feature to Google Flights, I do think it’s one of the pros of using the,
Is Google Flights Reliable (Cons)
There are a few cons to using Google Flights which I will share with you here.
Not All Airlines Are On Google Flights
One thing to be aware of with Google Flights is that not all airlines show up on it, but we are talking about a handful rather than anything to be really worried about.
The most famous example of an airline not on Google Flights is Southwest Airlines in America.
According to an AMA with the Google Flights team, this is at the request of Southwest themselves who want to keep their fares exclusive.
In my research I could find very few other major airlines that aren’t covered on Google Flights, it was more niche airlines such Aer Arann Islands who fly island routes in Ireland who are not included, but even these small airports didn’t show up when I searched.
You Get Shown The Lowest Version of a Fare
This is where you can get a little stung on Google Flights.
Whilst there is the ability to choose the class of flights (such as economy, business or first) Google Flights is not able to keep up with the multitude of options each airline offers.
For example, if we go back to my Melbourne to Tasmania example from earlier in this piece, you will see that Google Flights has automatically shown me Virgin’s ‘Lite’ price as it’s the cheapest. However, if I wanted more flexibility, to choose a seat or check in some baggage then the price goes up.
Whilst this is a con of using Google Flights, I don’t really think it speaks to their reliability. If you had searched these flights through the Virgin Australia website itself you would have originally been shown the lowest price, Google Flights is no different.
As ever with travel, companies hook you in with the lowest version of a fare and then extras are included afterwards. I would imagine in most instances, finding the flight with the cheapest base fare first, would also lead to the flight with the cheapest flexible tickets, but I haven’t done a full set of research to back this up.
There is No Option To Remove Third Party Agencies From the Search
If there was one feature I wish Google Flights would implement it would be this.
In the filters, they allow you to remove airlines, but not agencies.
Looking below you can see all the airlines it is possible to fly with, but not the agency you book them with.
The cheapest flight was with Jetstar, so I chose my dates and then I get to this screen which shows me the cheapest way to book is actually with a third party – Jettzy (who currently gets a 2.6 rating on Trustpilot…).
My preference is to book directly with the airlines where I can as I find it gives me more options if things change/
Not admittedly, the price difference here is only $3, but I’ve seen other examples where it can be significantly more than this.
I would love the option to choose ‘book directly with airlines only’ which would then potentially put up my prices slightly, but it would give me fares I personally find more reliable.
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