Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Online Travel

Google Will No Longer Be a Place to Book Travel as Fewer Travelers Were Using It

5 months ago

Google announced it will shut Book on Google for flights for users outside the U.S. at the end of September, and told Skift it will likewise end the feature in the U.S. sometime after March 31.

It turns out, a declining number of users were booking their flights on Google, which acknowledged that travelers would rather book their flights with online travel agencies or directly with airlines.

Google Flights will end doing its own airline bookings. Source: Sean O’Neill

To be clear, Google Flights is not shutting down, but will continue to enable travelers to click on airline and online travel agency links to book their flights, as they have done for years for the vast majority of flights. What changes is that Google will no longer take a small share of bookings on Google channels, but will refer all users to partners for bookings.

Eliminating the feature likewise doesn’t hurt Google’s case to beat back regulatory efforts to diminish its power on antitrust grounds.

With the Book on Google feature for flights, travelers can book on Google, but Google was just facilitating the booking for that airline or online travel agency, and the latter provided the customer service function. Google wasn’t charging airlines for the feature.

“Over the next 12 months, we plan to phase out the Book on Google feature for Flights,” Google stated. “We originally offered this functionality to give people a simpler way to buy their tickets and to help our partner airlines and OTAs receive more bookings. However, we’ve found over time that people actually want to book directly on partner websites, and we always strive to meet user preferences whenever possible.”

Some pundits saw Book on Google as the company creeping toward becoming an online travel agency, but that never appeared to be the intent. Google makes too much money on travel advertising to want to directly compete with its biggest partners. Google also has no interest in dealing with flight changes and cancellations, or in providing customer service to stranded travelers.

Google ended Book on Google for hotels earlier in 2022.

Google launched Book on Google in 2015 as a way to facilitate bookings for airlines and online travel agencies in an era when many of their mobile websites weren’t particularly sophisticated.

But partners’ mobile capabilities have improved in the interim, and Google said it saw a declining share of flight bookings coming from the Book on Google feature.

Many metasearch sites over the years have tried these types of facilitated bookings for partner airlines and hotels, but with a few exceptions, such as HomeToGo in Germany, this type of feature has been waning for years.

Travel Technology

Travel Hacks Galore to Ease the Pain of Hassled Travel

6 months ago

The New York Times published a story a few days ago headlined, Tech Hacks to Make Traveling Right Now Less of a Headache.

The famous Racoon Stealer malware is back ☠️ And it brought new updates that you should know. Source: SurfShark

In the story, the author recommended:

  • Book direct with the airline or hotel instead of gong through a middleman like an online travel agency.
  • Consult JoinSherpa.com to keep abreast of ever-changing Covid lockdown rules and destination entry requirements and use itinerary organizing tools like TripIt. If you are a Gmail user, Google Travel likewise organizes your travel bookings, although it can be glitchy.
  • Track wayward luggage with products such as Apple AirTag.
  • Download the hotel’s app to access functions such as earlier check-in as soon as your room is ready.

Additional Tech Hacks

We’ll add a few favorite tech hacks of our own.

  • Use FlightAware to see the location of the plane that’s hopefully en route for your departure. Some airline apps have this feature. A couple of weeks ago FlightAware informed me that the plane that was scheduled to take me from Puerto Rico to New Jersey would be arriving in New Jersey around 5:20 a.m. while United Airlines misinformed me that flight would be taking off more than an hour earlier. The flight actually took off around 15 hours later.
  • Speaking of United, you can now pre-order beverages and food on some U.S. domestic flights, although it too can be clunky.
  • Sign up for a virtual private network such as Surfshark so that once you arrive at your foreign destination you’ll still able to view apps such as Sling.tv, which wouldn’t otherwise be unavailable.
  • When shopping for deals, make sure to consult mobile apps for companies such as Tripadvisor, Expedia, or Booking.com because sometimes mobile deals will be lower than desktop prices.
  • Download lots of movies to your phone before your flight in case there are slim pickings on board.
  • Contact your cellphone company to see if it will give you a discounted rate for mobile calls in a foreign destination. T-Mobile has such a program, for example.

There are tons of other travel hacks available. Send us your favorites.

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