Google has announced two new features for its flight-booking search service.
Using historical flight status data, Google Flights will now try to predict when flights will be delayed, and it will also now tell you what amenities are not included in basic economy fares.
Down to basics
Delta Airlines, if you remember, helped kickstart the “basic economy” airfare back in 2012, offering a sort of rock-bottom tier below the traditional economy class. While this idea has been criticized as a cynical way to increase regular economy fares, American Airlines and United Airlines followed suit by also offering “last class” tickets.
One of the problems with the fare, however, is that it is not always clear at the outset what services and amenities you’re missing out on with the budget ticket — perhaps you have to pay extra for luggage, or you may not have access to overhead bin space.
Now Google Flights will show you upfront what isn’t included in the fare — across Delta, American Airlines, and United Airlines.
Sorry for the delay…
Elsewhere, Google Flights will not only tell you when a flight delay has been announced, it will also show the reasons for the delay. More interestingly, it will also now try to predict whether a flight is likely to be delayed.
To do so, Google Flights will combine historical data with machine learning smarts to tell you when a delay may occur. Google said that it only flags potential delays when it’s around 80 percent confident in its predictions.
Google Flights launched in 2011, shortly after the company acquired Cambridge-based flight data startup ITA Software for $700 million. Google Flights has helped travelers decide when to buy tickets by estimating when prices are likely to rise, similar to startups such as Hopper, and this latest update is an extension of those smarts.
However, delay predictions seem to be more a proclamation of “look how clever we are” than something that’s actually useful. Nobody should base their travel decisions on a predicted delay, so really it’s not clear what purpose this feature serves beyond perhaps setting your expectations and saving you from a nasty surprise.