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Google’s Flight Search Goes Mobile

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Google today launched its flight search feature for mobile browsers. Since it acquired travel software provider ITA Software in 2011, Google has been very deliberate about rolling travel search into its main search engine. It first launched relatively limited version of its ITA-based stand-alone flight search feature in September 2011 and then integrated this tool deeper into its regular search results in December. Now, whenever you feel like taking a trip, you can also use Google to search for flights on your Android and iOS phones as well.

Mobile, But Still Limited

This means, you can now use the regular search feature in the browser on your phone to look for something like [flights from New York to Washington] and bring up the mobile flight search feature.

This new feature brings most of the desktop version's tools to the mobile version as well, including the ability to discover places on a map and the ability to find the cheapest dates to travel.

Even on mobile, Google's travel search tools is still the fastest in the business, but at the same time, though, it also suffers from the same limitations as the desktop version. You can't use a search query to specify specific dates, for example. If you do so, flight search won't even kick in. Flight search also still doesn't work for international destinations.

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Google’s New (Limited) Flight Search Challenges Kayak and Co.

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Google today launched the first iteration of its new flight search feature that will allow users to find cheap airfares right from the Google interface without having to go through sites like Orbitz, Kayak or Expedia. For now, this feature is still somewhat limited and only supports major U.S. airports. The potential, here, however, is huge and even though this is a first version of this product, the service’s features easily rival (and sometimes surpass) those of sites like Kayak. The feature is fast, smart and will put a lot of pressure on the incumbents in this business.

A few months ago, after a long regulatory delay, Google finally closed on its acquisition of ITA Software, a major supplier of IT solutions for airlines and travel services (including Orbitz and many major U.S.-based airlines). This flight search feature is the first fruit of this acquisition and finally gets Google a strong foothold in the travel market – a potentially lucrative market that Google, for some reason, waited a long time to enter.

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Features

There are obviously already plenty of flight booking services out there, ranking from Kayak to Hipmunk. For the most part, Google offers the same feature set to search for flights and lets you filter by airline, airline alliance, departure time, etc.

flight_search_limitedGoogle, however, is using some smart visualization features to get ahead of the competition. You can, for example, easily compare flight duration and price on a scatter graph and then use the built-in slider to filter out flights that are too long or expensive. The list of available flights is then updated in real time.

There are also advanced tools, including the ability to search for multiple nearby airports and the ability to discover days when tickets are the cheapest. You can also easily compare the prices on different dates.

Verdict: A Winner

While still limited by the low number of airports it currently supports, it’s already clear that Google has a winner on its hands here. In testing the service, it quickly becomes clear that it is faster and easier to use than Kayak and similar services.



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