Google has begun showing its hand, but just how much could it threaten the industry?

It wasn’t long ago that Google launched its Google Flights application penetrating the travel sector, causing many to predict the demise of all other operators. Whether this was accurate or not remains to be seen, but what is certain is that Google Flights is here to stay, and it continues to grow and develop.

In fact, Google recently announced enhancements to Google Flights aimed at assisting travellers with saving money on purchases. The introduction of new features such as the ability to search and explore different booking dates, airports, and hotel locations for planning an itinerary is aimed at offering cheaper options, but what does this mean for the industry?

Let’s take a quick look at what improvements have been made to Google Flights:

Searching by date to achieve the best price

Google has added more price insights to Google Flights, giving users a calendar view of date combinations with the cheapest prices highlighted in green and the most expensive in red. The new features also include a price graph that allows users to see how airfares vary over time.

According to Google, 60% of people who planned a vacation in the last year said they would be open to changing travel dates if it would save them money. Google reported that if it provides a suggestion showing it is possible to get a lower price by shifting dates slightly, almost 10% of users choose to change their original travel dates.

Source: Google Flights

More, let’s not forget hotels. When choosing dates for a specific hotel, users will now see the nightly rate, either in the calendar view or via price trends graphs to see how rates change over time.

Considering nearby airports or hotel locations to decrease costs

Google believes that for more than 25 percent of flight searches a cheaper option is available simply by choosing an alternative airport. Now all nearby airports can be viewed on an interactive map within the application, which shows the distance between each one and the user’s final destination, helping with the selection of the most convenient airports, and the cheapest.

For example, flights into New York also identify costs associated with additional airports:

Source: Google Flights

Again, the same technology is being used for hotels, by which the google maps application is used to quickly identify the best areas and hotels for any budget and itinerary needs.

The new flight and fare insights are now available on mobile and will be rolling out to Google Flights on desktop later in 2017.

What’s next?

Speaking at the CAPA Australia Pacific Aviation & Corporate Travel Summit, Google Asia Pacific head of APAC Eugenie Lam confirmed that the company was adding even more new products and services to its Google Destinations, Trips and Flights products.

Ms Lam discussed plans to provide travellers with assistance in locating activities and events at their destinations, the objective being to help travellers select a place to go to, assist them in booking the trip, and then offering them things to do at their destinations.

Industry opinion

OAG recently conducted a survey of more than 2,400 North American travellers, identifying that: “Millennial behaviour is a key indicator for the industry, and as this generation embraces new technologies in the travel space, it could lead to increased activity and growth for services like Google Flights”.  The survey also identified that:

  • 10% of respondents start their travel search process with Google Flights;
  • 21% of millennials start the search process with Google Flights;
  • 23% of people regularly use Google Flights at some point during travel searches;
  • 62% of all respondents indicated they would be comfortable booking directly through Google Flights;
  • 56% of all travellers and 68% of millennials would likely book an Airbnb if it was offered on a traditional OTA platform.

SAP Software & Solutions SVP and GM, Travel and Transportation Paul Pessutti, speaking at the CAPA 2017 Americas Aviation Summit, stated that Google could be a key disruptor in the airline industry.

Mr Pessutti said Google will know “more than anyone else” about the customer. “No one is underestimating them… what they can do is pretty incredible.”

While Google’s attempt at penetrating the travel sector is yet to really make the impact the organisation would like, it is definitely ready to cause a disruption unlike anything we have seen before.