Google Flights: Finally Ready For Take-Off

Travel websites are facing a fierce new competitor - technology giant Google, Top Tech News reports.

The Google Flights service has finally left beta stage and has been launched officially. The site allows users to search for flights by price and date, as well as offering suggestions on how users can find cheaper deals and a price comparison tool - putting the site in direct competition with the likes of Orbitz, Expedia (which recently acquired Travelocity) and Kayak. It also allows users to search for flights to entire countries and regions.

More than half (54%) of people have not decided where they wish to visit before they sit down to plan their trip, says Google. The firm introduced the ability to search for flights by region or country in July 2013 and since then, the volume of such searches has doubled. Travellers can also use the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button to receive suggestions based on popular destinations and the user's past search history.

The redesigned site makes it easier for travellers to shop around for the best price, thanks to a calendar that shows the cheapest priced flight each day. There's also a chart that shows how prices fluctuate based on the seasons, holidays or other events.

Travellers using the site also have another advantage: the travel recommendations it offers. As part of the service, users are given additional money-saving tips such as cheaper flights to nearby airports or flying on a different day.

Another feature of the service is Google's "Best Flights". The site will identify a particular flight as offering the best combination of price and convenience. Some travellers may not necessarily choose the cheapest flight (40%, says the firm), and up to 85% of travellers pick one of the Best Flight options when they are presented with the results.

However, Google Flights could spell trouble for airlines or services which don't have the benefit of all the information that Google has at its fingertips, says Tnooz.

As of October 2016, the consent decree granted by the US Justice Department around Google's purchase of airfare technology company ITA Software (which powers flight searches) will expire, leaving Google with greater flexibility with its licensing - and other services potentially struggling against the might of the search engine .

"The real danger is of Google dominance of personalised pricing," said consumer champion Ed Hasbrouck to the Washington Post last year. "Imagine Google being able to incorporate everything it knows about you from your use of all Google services into decisions about what price to put on each airline ticket. Airlines or services with less info on which to base such price personalisation would have a hard time competing with Google."

One thing is certain: all eyes within the industry will be watching to see what happens after October.