In 2011, Google launched Google Flights and integrated its features into SERP results.
However, the launch fell under the radar, and most people would be hard-pressed even to explain what Google Flights is.
That said, in 2016, Google’s overall travel business exploded to twice the size of the more popular, Expedia.
Google’s entire travel portfolio business is more substantial than Priceline, TripAdvisor, and Chinese travel giant, Ctrip (combined).
Google’s travel business has metrics and data firmly on its side
Google has access to an overwhelming diversity of metrics that assure Google can almost always outperform any industry vertical that it desires. In this case, Google is launching artificial intelligence (AI) capacity to report delayed flights; before they happen.
Yes, before American Airlines sends you that text telling you your flight to Kansas City will be delayed, Google’s AI system may have already notified you.
To accomplish this, the company said in a memo published yesterday, that it will use metrics derived from a series of third parties and flight history ledger data.
While the company did not bring up weather as a useful variable in the AI’s equation, it is difficult to believe that information would not be used to calculate the likelihood of a flight delay.
Google Flights will not only predict flight delays before airlines announce them, but it will also offer more transparency over why a flight is delayed.
Often, carriers delay flights and give little reason as to what prompted the delay. Google is looking to change this by providing more profound insights into why the delay occurred.
Google claims that “machine learning algorithms” can predict “some delays” before airlines because Google claims to have access to information which influences airlines to delay flights before the airlines have the information.
Yes, it is somewhat unsettling to consider that Google is more adept at determining flight delay variables than the airlines themselves.
However this is the new world we live in and Google is a technological giant, so we should limit our level of surprise over the matter.
Google Flights will also serve to help consumers find the absolute cheapest fares available.
While this might sound somewhat generic in terms of advantages (most travel websites filter for cheapest fares), Google Flights will be redefining “cheap” by including exterior charges, like baggage fees and overhead bin space and the ability to select which seat you want.
I am sure we have all booked that cheap flight, only to wind up buying an aisle seat and paying for bags.
In this case, Google is expanding the algorithm to accommodate the bitter reality of upcharges that has become modern airline travel.Google Flights, in a way, will be deciphering the fine print of airline purchases in a more digestible manner.
What is Google trying to accomplish?
Google’s primary goal is to “manage expectations” of travelers both in flight prices and schedules.
The effects on the travel industry are not clear at this juncture, other than potentially causing airlines to become less egregious with hidden charges. Airlines who utilize unsavory baggage fee or seat upgrade charges may well be bypassed by consumers who can easily see that “more expensive” flights are actually “less expensive” than they seem.
It is important to realize that Google has a host of profitable travel oriented advertisers in Google Adwords, as well, their search engine displays extensive variations in travel-oriented websites.
It is difficult to imagine that Google would intentionally (or unintentionally) undercut this environment.
It is likely that Google Flights will be an upgraded experience that plugs into the travel system in a general way.
However, this should serve as yet another example of the focus of Google on AI and machine learning.