If Google wants to build its flight price guarantee, it has the challenge that it always had with Book on Google — find airlines content to having their customers get into the Google habit.
U.S. travelers will be able to book some flights right on Google for the time being to take advantage of a Google flight price guarantee, despite the shuttering of the Book on Google feature for flights internationally almost a year ago.
The issue is important — and a sensitive one in the travel industry — because of the fear that Google could become more of a booking-oriented online travel agency like Booking.com or Expedia than its traditional role as search engine.
Book on Google
Within a blog post Monday, which highlighted “new insights on the cheapest time to book” flights, Google touted its flight-price guarantee pilot program, which began a limited run in 2019, and relaunched last April.
On a limited number of flights that depart from the U.S. and where Google has Book on Google partnerships with the relevant airlines and potentially online travel agencies, travelers with a U.S. address can view “a colorful price guarantee badge,” Google said, and book the flight without having to leave Google.
The screenshot shows Alaska Airlines as a partner in Book on Google. Travelers can book the Alaska flight on Google. Alaska handles the customer service. Source: Google
“When you book one of these flights, we’ll monitor the price every day before takeoff, and if the price does go down, we’ll pay you back the difference via Google Pay,” the blog post said.
Flight Price Guarantee
When travelers use Book on Google to buy an airline ticket, Google takes the customer information and processes the transaction on Google in partnership with the airline or online travel agency, which handle all customer service.
In theory, it is a way for airlines and online travel agencies to increase turning lookers into bookers. If travelers had to navigate to the individual websites, the airlines risk losing the sale.
Still, airlines and online travel agencies lose direct site visitors, and potentially aid Google in getting travelers to visit Google for bookings instead of their own websites.
Google terminated Book on Google for hotels in May 2022, saying the feature didn’t have enough traction to continue building it. Google ended Book on Google for flights for users outside the U.S. at the end of September 2022, and announced it would end the service for U.S. points of sale “on or after March 31, 2023.”
Well, it is now five months after March 31, 2023, and Google is still using Book on Google to implement its flight price guarantee in the U.S.
The schedule is open-ended and Google does intend to terminate Book on Google. But it is trying to figure out another way to offer a flight-price guarantee.
After all, when a traveler books a flight on Google, then Google knows the details of the booking, including the airfare amount. It wouldn’t necessarily have that information if travelers use Google only to search for flights, before going elsewhere to buy.
The challenge is to continue offering a flight price guarantee for flyers who search airfares on Google when they book their airline tickets on an airline website or an online travel agency.
Price tracking and predictions, as well as flight price guarantees are becoming almost a must-have for online travel agencies. Hopper and Expedia are among those offering.
Past participants in Google Flights included Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic, Alaska, Priceline and CheapOair, among others.
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Photo credit: An Alaska Airlines 737 Max. Source: Alaska Airlines Courtesy of Alaska Airlines / Alaska Airlines