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Google’s New Flight Search Tool

By Carissa Bluestone

Look out, Expedia. After launching its Hotel Finder this summer, Google expanded its travel-related tools last week with Flight Search.

Like Hotel Finder, Flight Search uses Google’s familiar map interface for simple, visual trip planning. You can plug in your flight details (destination and dates) as you would on any travel-booking site or you can click on the map to draw a route between your departure and arrival cities.

The beauty of Flight Search is its streamlined approach. Unlike many aggregator and travel-booking sites, Flight Search filters out very long or very expensive options. Also, once you click on your departure city, low fares to all major hubs automatically appear on the map. The comparison and filter features position Flight Search to be more than a comparison-shopping tool. Need to get out of town for the weekend but can’t decide where to go? Click on your departure city and then use the duration and price filters: Hubs on the map disappear until you can see only how far you could get from say, Boston, with a $200-budget and three hours of flying time to spare.

On the other hand, there’s plenty Flight Search can’t do at the moment: Currently, it only covers flights within the US, though Google plans to add more destinations soon (no word on when). Also, it only shows results for single, round-trip tickets, and it only links directly to official airline websites for booking—you still have to hunt elsewhere for bargain-basement deals. But despite being in its early stages, Google’s foray into flight booking is already making some competitors nervous. Several companies—Expedia, Kayak and Travelocity, among them—attempted to block the $700 million deal that allowed Google to acquire ITA Software, a US-based company that delivers airline data to most of the major travel aggregation websites.

It may be a while before Flight Search is truly competitive with other established aggregators and trip-planning sites, but if its focus on streamlining finds an enthusiastic audience, it could lead to major changes in the way travel-booking sites present their information.

Read more at money.cnn.com and wwwibtimes.com.

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