Flight delay predictions, mobile trip-planning, automatic itinerary management, language translation through Bluetooth earbuds, and a smartphone that enables users to learn about landmarks by tapping an icon and aiming the phone at them: These are among the travel innovations Google has been introducing in recent days and weeks. While a Google Pixel 2 smartphone costs upward of $650, the company’s latest tools are free. In fact, they may already be on your phone, nudging Google closer to being a one-stop destination for on-the-go vacation planning.
Searching Google for a hotel or flight was once two separate activities. You could run a search for a flight across multiple airlines. Or you could search a city for hotels. Now, however, when you use an Android or iOS smartphone to search Google for a flight, a hotel or even a destination, you’ll find a blue navigation bar. It appears on your screen when you tap your Google search result — be it “Rome flights,” “Rome hotels” or simply “Rome.” There are separate tabs for flights and hotels (like you see on sites such as Priceline), as well as an “explore” tab to check out the destination’s top sights and best times to visit, and a “your trips” tab where Gmail users can see their future and past travel reservations, and email those reservations to others. (Travelers can also edit their itineraries and see them offline if they use the Google Trips app, which allows users to check out things to do and places to eat; review transportation options; see emergency numbers; and find out about local currency and free Wi-Fi locations.)
With the blue navigation bar, users can now easily move between flight and hotel options. The feature is currently being rolled out on mobile phones in the United States. A spokeswoman for Google said there are plans to expand globally in the coming months.
Google has also added new features to Google Flights, its online airfare search and comparison tool. Now users can see what’s included (or not) with new fare types like basic economy. For instance, you can find out whether a particular fare on Delta or United allows you to choose your seat or store a bag in an overhead bin. Users may also be able to find out why their flights are delayed (to check your status, just search your flight number on Google), as well as view predictions about whether a flight will be delayed, based on historic flight status data and machine learning algorithms. (Google said it will share predictions only when it’s at least 80 percent confident of the prediction). These days it’s also possible to book certain flights through Google, as opposed to clicking a link and purchasing the flight on the airline’s website or that of a third-party like Expedia.