Google is rolling out a few new features to its Google Flights search engine to help travellers tackle some of the more frustrating aspects of air travel – delays and the complexities of the cheaper, Basic Economy fares. With the regard to delays, Google Flights won’t just be pulling in information from the airlines directly, however – it will take advantage of its understanding of historical data and its machine learning algorithms to predict delays that haven’t yet been flagged by airlines themselves.
Explains Google, the combination of data and A.I. technologies means it can predict some delays in advance of any sort of official confirmation. Google says that it won’t actually flag these in the app until it’s at least 80 percent confident in the prediction, though. (Of course, you should still get to the airport on time, but at least you’ll know what you’re about to face once there.)
It will also provide reasons for the delays, like weather or an aircraft arriving late.
You can track the status of your flight by searching for your flight number or the airline and flight route, notes Google. The delay information will then appear in the search results.
The other new feature added today aims to help travelers make sense of what Basic Economy fares include and exclude with their ticket price.
These low-cost fares are often the only option for travelers on a budget, but they have a number of restrictions that can vary by airline.
Google Flights will now display the restrictions associated with these fares – like restrictions on using overhead space or the ability to select a seat, as well as the fare’s additional baggage fees. It’s initially doing so for American, Delta and United flights worldwide.
These changes come only a month after Google Flights added price tracking and deals to Google Flights as well as hotel search features for web searchers.
The additions seem especially targeted toward today’s travel startups and businesses, like Hopper which had just added hotel search, and uses big data to analyze airline prices and other factors; or TripIt, a competitor of sorts to Google’s own travel app Google Trips, which most recently introduced security checkpoint wait times. (Given that Google already knows the busy times for area businesses by tracking people’s movement via Google Maps, it wouldn’t be surprising to see it implement security wait times next.)
The features are also a real-world demo of Google’s machine learning and big data capabilities, especially in the case of predicting flight delays. Since you can’t take action on the alerts until the airline makes an official announcement, they will largely just cause more anxiety on top of your already stressful travel experience.