It’s often one of the most crippling decisions of the flight booking process: Purchase the tickets now or wait to see if the price could still come down? Google Flights this week introduced a price tracking feature that could put an end to the analysis paralysis.
Google Flights, which is part of Google’s travel search platform, has long let travelers know whether it considers the prices for a given flight to be high, low, or typical for the time of year and route. But on select flights for which the search behemoth is confident it is displaying the absolute lowest price possible, it will now offer a “price guarantee.” On those flights with a “price guarantee” badge, if the price drops between the time the ticket is purchased and the time the flight departs, Google will pay the difference via Google Pay, up to $500 (travelers can receive up to $500 back total per calendar year for up to three price guaranteed bookings).
The “price guarantee” offer is part of a new pilot program that was unveiled this week—though Google did try this before for a brief period back in 2019.
How does the Google “price guarantee” option work?
To find flights marked with the “price guarantee,” travelers must be signed into their Google account, they need to set their country/region to the United States, and the currency must be in U.S. dollars. It is currently only available for flights purchased via the “Book on Google” option for one-way and round-trip flights that depart from the United States. (Eventually it will be available beyond the “Book on Google” option, a spokesperson tells AFAR—more details on that below.)
Flights with a price guarantee will feature a “colorful price badge,” notes Google. Travelers will then need to select the badged flight and click the “Book on Google” link. Then travelers will need to check the box next to “Price Guarantee” to accept the terms of service and, once the flight is booked, will receive a confirmation email that the flight is guaranteed. According to Google, no further action is required by the traveler.
“After you book, we monitor the price until the first flight in your itinerary departs,” Google explains in a blog post detailing the new option. “We then send you an email to let you know if the price dropped or not. . . . If the price dropped, we pay you the difference back in Google Pay. If the price didn’t go down, you can rest assured that you got the best price with Google Flights.”
In order to receive the payment, travelers need to download the Google Pay app and set it up within 90 days of the first departure flight of the itinerary.
Unfortunately, if the airline cancels or reschedules the flight, Google won’t pay the difference. But if the price goes down and then back up again, Google will pay the difference between the price paid at booking and the lowest price available prior to takeoff.
How does “Book on Google” work?
When you search for flights on Google, you usually have the option to then book the flights that surface either directly with the airline or through an online travel agency. There is also the option to “Book on Google,” which allows customers to complete the booking within Google using contact and payment info stored in your Google account—the actual booking is still made with the airline or travel agency, Google just serves as an intermediary.
This past September, the option to book flights on Google was discontinued for countries outside the United States, and at the time, Google announced that it would also phase out the booking option stateside on or after March 31, 2023. The option remains in place for now, a Google spokesperson tells AFAR.
“We do still intend to shut down Book on Google for flights, so longer term we are exploring options to support price guarantees that don’t require Book on Google,” the spokesperson stated.