Google adds 'cheapest time to book' feature

Google on Monday unveiled a “cheapest time to book” feature that will let travelers know when airfares are expected to be lowest for booking their preferred destination.

Users on Google Flights can already see whether search prices are low, typical or high compared to past averages  for the same route and can set up price tracking alerts. Now, for searches with reliable trend data, users will also see a prediction of the cheapest time to book for the selected dates and destination.

Similar advice is already offered by other sites. For example, in June Kayak introduced its “best time to travel tool,” which takes into account not only historical pricing data but weather and seasonal crowds at a destination. In addition, Hopper offers a price prediction tool to help users judge the best time to book. Skyscanner offers to help users find the cheapest month to fly and set up price alerts to book the best price.

Google said it decided to upgrade its flight insights after hearing feedback from customers who wanted to know the best time to book a trip. “With this feature, we’re now giving more specific insights, informed by prior trends, so people can make an informed decision on whether to book now or wait for prices to drop,” a spokesperson said.

To make it work, Google uses several years of historical pricing data to identify consistent windows of time when lower-than-typical prices occur for similar trips. On some searches, prices only tend to increase as the departure date approaches. In these cases, Google said it tells users when the less expensive prices usually end, for example, five months before departure.

The advice is based on historical data for trips of similar length, in the same season, with the same origin and destination, number of stops, seating class and airline. Data from 2020 is not included since it was significantly affected by Covid-19.

Since March, select Book on Google itineraries within Google Flights come with a price guarantee badge, which means Google is “especially confident” the fare won’t get any lower before departure and will pay the difference if it does.

This article was originally published by Phocuswire, a sister publication to Travel Weekly.

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