how to use google flights to find cheap flights

How to Use Google Flights to Find Cheap Flights

If you are a frequent traveler, the idea of getting a cheap flight ticket no doubt appeals to you. That is why you are reading this, right.

Well, most cheap flight alerts available on the internet involve a Google Flights sample search. Google Flights is one of the most powerful flight search engines. It is not only easy to use but also has many features to make airfare hunting easier.

A lot has changed since its launch in 2011. In 2018, Google carried out a complete design overhaul. They added some features and reconfigured others. 

We prepared This guide to help you get the most out of Google flights. We hope after reading it, you will be able to find more cheap flights. Read on.

What is Google Flights best for?

Here are some specific advantages of using Google Flights to do flight searches.

  • It is Lightning-fast: It is difficult to beat Google flight when it comes to speed. Within the blink of an eye, Google Flights displays fares for months ahead.
  • Provides a Calendar-based fare view: Google Flights has an easy-to-understand calendar feature displaying the cheapest flight fares over the next 12 months.
  • Airport search feature: With Google Flights, you can search for the cheapest fare between up to 7 origin and destination airports without slowing the search. 
  • Map-based search: Google Flights Explore Map is a feature that allows you to see the cheapest place to fly from for your selected dates range.

What is Google Flights is bad at? 

Just like any other thing, Google Flights has a few lapses. Let us highlight them. 

  • Do not always have the cheapest fares: Most times is possible to find the cheapest fares on smaller online travel agencies. But Google flights do not look at them. It only considers flight fares sold directly from airlines and a handful of top online travel agencies (OTAs). Also, Google Flights does not display results from Southwest Airlines. That is something you need to check directly with the airline.
  • Do not find many mistake fares: Again, most Mistake Fares only appear on smaller online travel agency websites. That is not something Google Flights will be able to discover.
  • Occasionally Displays expired deals: There are times when you will find Flights available at a specific rate on Google Flight. You go ahead to click only to find out either there is an increase in the fares or no way to book online. This occurrence is known as ghosting and occasionally happens when a flight fare was available originally but no longer is. Do not bother calling the airline even if Google flights advise you to do so. It does not work. 

Google Flights tutorial

Okay, so now that you know the good and bad sides of using Google Flights for flight searches, here is how to use it to find cheap fares on nearly every flight booking website, as well as the largest online travel agencies like Orbitz and Priceline.

How to change your currency or language on Google Flights

On opening the Google Flights website, look for the three horizontal lines to the left of the words, Google Flights.

How to change your currency or language on Google Flights

When you click this, it opens up a vertical menu on the left-hand side. Look down to the bottom of this. There you will find options to change to your preferred language, currency, or country. You can also access the Explore map from here or view any prices you are tracking.

How to change your currency or language on Google Flights

It is also possible to adjust your country, language, and currency at the bottom of the page.

How to change your currency or language on Google Flights

How to set departure and arrival locations on Google Flights

On the homepage, enter your location (where you are flying from) and destination. Also, enter your preferred dates. Check the example below: 

How to set departure and arrival locations on Google Flights

You can put as many as seven airports in each box by separating them by commas. For example, let us say you are looking for a cheap trip to anywhere Europe. You can put as your destination LHR, AMS, CDG, CPH, FCO, BCN, MXP to find out where the cheapest flight is from Chicago to maybe London, Amsterdam, Paris, Copenhagen, Rome, Barcelona, or Milan.

For cities with multiple airports, note that they have more than one city code. For example, NYC (New York City) and WAS (Washington DC) count for three because NYC = JFK, LGA, EWR, and WAS = DCA, IAD, BWI.

How to select dates on Google Flights

If you are looking to find the cheapest dates, click the departure date box. You will find prices for two months with the cheapest dates in green just like this:

How to select dates on Google Flights

Google Flights will only take into account prices in the months you have instructed it to look. In the example above, what you see in the green dates are the lowest in September and October. However, cheaper rates may be available in later months that Google Flights will only reveal if you use the right arrow to search for these months.

Once you have looked at the calendar for the lowest fares, click on your proposed departure and return dates.

Google Flights then provides a long list of possible flights just like this:

How to select dates on Google Flights

Google Flights will list a few up top that they consider the Best Departing Flights. They do this listing based on factors like price and routing. But you can still take a look at the Other Departing Flights to see whether any of those departures work better for your schedule.

All flight times are displayed in local time. If there is a +1 next to the arrival time listed, it means your flight arrives the next day (or two days later if it shows +2).

How to book flights on Google Flights

Once you have chosen a departure flight that matches your schedule, click on it. You will see something like this (below) where you will be required to pick a corresponding return flight ( if you are booking a roundtrip fare). 

How to book flights on Google Flights

Okay. Maybe that is not what you want, and you would like to go back and change the departure flight. All you need to do is click where it says, ORD-VCE Tue, Sep 18 towards the upper left.

The prices displayed on Google Flights include taxes. What if your search is for a round trip itinerary? Google Flights will display the cost for the entire round trip. Sounds good, right?

Let us be clear. Google Flights is not an online travel agency (OTA). It is just a flight search engine, meaning you can not book a flight on Google Flights. Instead, Google Flights will redirect you to the airline booking website where you can book directly.

On clicking your preferred return flight, you will see booking options displayed like this:

How to book flights on Google Flights

You can now click to book using either KLM or Delta that takes you to their checkout page. There you can now enter your passenger and payment information.

What to do when cheap flights can not be booked through Google Flights (Ghosting)?

Remember we talked about ghosting before ( when you can not book a cheap flight displayed on Google Flights). 

When ghosting happens, there is no way to book those specific flights on those dates at the original cheap price.

Now here are some ways to see if you can still book a ghosting fare:

  • You can try other dates on Google Flights
  • Take the dates of a ghosting fare and check on Priceline or Momondo to see if it is still available.

But there is no guarantee any of these routes will work. In some cases, you can not book again. 

How to get a map view on Google Flights

Google flight allows you to pull up a map and see cheap flights across an entire region or country. The map view is Google Flight’s hidden feature. However, this feature is only available on a desktop. 

To pull up the map, start your search as explained before. 

Enter your departure city and dates, but this time leave the destination blank. 

How to get a map view on Google Flights

Next, click the blue Search button. You will display on your screen something like this; 

How to get a map view on Google Flights

(Zoom in to see more cheap fares) 

With this feature, you can enter entire continents like Asia instead of specific countries.

Note that the initial map view only reveals the fares on the particular dates you entered.

You can find the cheapest fare for any time by clicking the dates and switching to the Flexible dates option just like this; 

How to get a map view on Google Flights

How to filter results in Google Flights

Google Flights give a rare superpower to set an array of filters to ensure you only get the search results you want. 

Some of these filters include:

  • Number of stops
  • Layover duration
  • Which (if any) connecting airports
  • Price ceiling
  • Flight times
  • Which airline(s) and/or airline alliance(s)
  • The total length of flight

Look under the dates you will find the filters.

How to filter results in Google Flights

How to identify basic economy fares on Google Flights

Okay, now you are done with selecting your flight. A page with the final price and links to book with the airlines will be displayed next. Just beneath the departure and destination cities at the top, you will find a suitcase icon for the class of travel. 

How to identify basic economy fares on Google Flights

Click that button to open the explanation box showing what each fare includes. You can now select your class preference.

How to identify basic economy fares on Google Flights

How to set fare alerts on Google Flights

Firstly, you have to set your departure dates and destination cities.

On the resulting page, click on the Track Prices button. It turns blue. You will be required to sign in to Google if you are not already signed in.

How to set fare alerts on Google Flights

Click the blue-button. Once that is done, you will see a small box at the bottom of the page showing View All. There you can see all the flights you are currently tracking. Whenever there is a price change, you will be sent a notification via email. 

One downside of using Google Flights to track flight is that you may end up with plenty of notifications in your inbox as flight prices a lot. The feature does not allow you to set the notifications only for prices that hit a particular threshold. Also, you can not set the alerts for a broad date range or a general region but only specific destinations and dates. 

How to tell if you have found a good deal on Google Flights

Good news! Google flight has a feature to help you figure out if you have found a good deal. Although, this feature is only available to some routes. It provides a helpful way to know at a glance if the displayed price is reasonable in comparison to the average rates for your specific dates. 

You can find this data displayed beneath the flight options on the result page for searches. 

How to tell if you've found a good deal on Google Flights

The color-coded bar shows green if the prices are lower than usual, yellow when they are average, and red if they are higher than regular. It also tells you how much more or less you will pay than the average price.

Hitting the blue Details hyperlink helps you expand the details. There you will find more specifics on the range of average prices for your chosen dates.

How to tell if you've found a good deal on Google Flights

Getting a refund on flights booked through Google Flights

Refunds are up to the individual airport policy as Google Flights is only a search engine. Remember, flights are direct with the airline.

According to the Department of Transportation 24-hour-rule, any flight within 24 hours of ticket purchase can be canceled with a full refund. The rule, however, only applies to flights departing from the U.S. Also, to get a refund, the ticket must be booked directly with the airline and at least seven days before departure.

Frequently asked questions about Google Flights.

How does Google Flights work? 

Google Flights is a flight search engine that taps into the roster offered by airlines and the major OTAs (online travel agencies like Orbitz and Priceline). It then shows the prices for the flights to you. 

You can also find on Google Flights roundtrip prices encompassing taxes or any extra luggage fees. On selecting a flight, you are allowed to book with the airline or with an OTA. You do not book through Google Flights. 

Do Google Flights use cookies to raise the price on flights I am searching for? 

The rumor remains unfounded. Google flight does not use cookies to track your web activities and raise the flights they know you are interested in. 

Google Flights simply show the prices from the airlines and OTAs. It has no control over the flight prices. 

Are Google Flights prices accurate? 

Google Flights is a reliable, legitimate, and trustworthy site for flight searching. In general, its prices are accurate and reflect the same prices as you will find on the airline websites and other OTAs. However, in rare instances, Google Flights prices are wrong, or more accurately, the price info is outdated. 

Usually, this is the result of flight fare ghosting. Ghosting happens when the airline updates its price. But the price on Google Flights does not change right away. When you click through the airline to purchase, the price suddenly jumps because the old fare is no longer available, even though it is still visible on Google Flights. 

Does Google Flights offer the cheapest prices? 

Google Flights focuses on the prices from the airlines and major OTAs. However, sites like Momondo scour hundreds of smaller OTAs. So, sometimes they unearth cheaper prices. 

If you want to find the absolute lowest prices, we recommend starting your search on Google Flights that allows you to search for broader dates and destination ranges. After selecting a specific itinerary on Google Flights, conduct another search on a site like Momondo or Skyscanner to see if there is a cheaper price available for the same flight.

Are all airlines on Google Flights? 

Not all airlines are available on Google Flights. For example, Southwest Airlines does not list its fares on Google Flights if you are searching from the U.S. There are also several Asian carriers not listed like Thai Airways, China Eastern, Air China, and Philipines Airlines.

Other airlines like Oman Air, Interjet, Aeromexico, EVA Air, and Aeromexico only have some of their flights listed on Google Flights. 

How do I book or cancel a flight with Google Flights?

Google Flights can only show you flight prices from airlines and online travel agencies. It does not sell flights to the consumer, and you cannot book directly with Google Flights. 

The site redirects you to the airline or OTA. So, you can not select seats, pay for your flight, or get a refund directly via Google Flights. There is also no way to contact or call Google Flights.