Google has put another foot squarely in the travel arena with Google Flights, its new airline ticket aggregator. The site has the ITA Software deal to thank for its existance, which was hotly contested by would-be competitors. Nonetheless, Google hasn’t been deterred by its new cohorts’ dissatisfaction and Hotel Finder and Flights have made their officially debuts.
We’ve already taken a look at how Google Hotel Finder stacks up against the competition, and now we’ll put Google Flights through the ringer.
Like Hotel Finder, Google Flights is incredibly minimalistic and makes for a lot of white space. It has the same new layout as Google Search, and the left hand side of the page offers tabs to help you narrow down results. Flights uses a map to visually show you your potential flight, and includes drop-down filters to let you peruse flights based on their length and price.
Flights is inarguably easy to navigate. The lack of ads (we’d assume for the time being) means your focus is squarely set on your search. Results drop down below your query in order of takeoff time. We would rather it automatically displayed flights according to price, which is generally the tipping point for consumers. You can decide what qualifier flights are listed by, of course, including price. But the wording Google uses here is a little strange: Clicking “Round trip” will display your options according to their cost. Just from looking at the page you could probably deduce as much, but it’s not as immediately clear as if the category were simply labeled “Price.”
By most comparisons, Kayak has a fairly sparse site that is absence of clutter and distractions, but after coming from Google Flights it almost looks too busy. Most of that is because Kayak puts some of its features right up front, whereas Flights hides them behind icons and in drop downs. Kayak’s “Flex calendar” and option to see others’ best found fares can be located on the right hand side of the page, adjacent to your actual search.
Search itself is as simple as it should be. We do like the map Google Flights provides – it does a nice job breaking up the text. While the flexible dates feature and indicators (like which class type you’re looking for, and if you’d like to skip layovers) might feel like you’re being asked too many questions compared to Google Flights’ simplicity, they are likely a quicker means to an end in your specific flight search.
The search part of Kayak is fine, but it’s the results UI we don’t care for. Instead of a drop down, you’re redirected to a new page full of ads, a side bar to adjust the conditions of your trip, a flexible days calendar, and then finally your results. It’s a really busy page to look at, but we are glad the left-hand bar keeps you from having to backpedal to the home page to alter your search.
Google isn’t the only search company that wants to capitalize on the online travel market. The competitor site has a few years on Google, and it has a multitude of features to prove it. It has a remarkably similar layout to Google Flights – at first. The search box portion of the page is reminiscent, but Bing lays all the site’s cards on the table. Everything you could possibly want to use from Bing Travel is right at its surface: Last-minute flight deals, low fare finders, price predictors. All very interesting stuff, but it crowds the site and definitely distracts from what could otherwise be a very clean look.
Once you search, a popup shows your flight summary, which you can defer to or choose to see a more thorough listing. The latter redirects you to a new page, which automatically displays your options according to price.
Bing’s UI looks like the love child of Google Flights and Kayak. It wants to be all clean lines and white space without sacrificing the various features Kayak throws on the margins of its site. The result is a less-defined results section.