(EXPIRED) Price protection for flights: Google to offer pilot program

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Google Travel has announced a new feature that they will be piloting for flights booked from August 13, 2019 to September 2, 2019 for “select itineraries”: If Google predicts that prices will not drop and offers you a “price guarantee”, they will monitor the airfare for your trip and refund the difference if the price of your airfare drops any time up to departure. Again, this will only be for flights booked in that specific window and on select routes, but it’s exciting to see someone in this space offer this innovation.

a screen shot of a phone
Google intends to offer a “Price guarantee” on certain flights as a pilot program on bookings from August 13th – September 2nd

The Deal

  • Google Travel will be offering a form of price protection on flights booked between August 13 and September 2: If you book a fare that Google predicts will not drop and find a lower price at any time up until departure, they will refund the difference. Note that I think they will email and you will need to manually request the refund.
  • Direct link to blog announcement

Key Details

  • Only available on select itineraries booked during the announced window

Quick Thoughts

This looks awesome. I’m not sure whether or not Stephen Pepper has all of his flights booked for the #40KFaraway challenge, but if not I’d suggest that he hold off a few more days. I actually have some unrelated flights to book and I’ll be holding off a few days so I can test this out.

Of course, the press release notes that this will be available on “select itineraries”, so we don’t know how many flights will qualify. They do note that it will apply to select itineraries originating in the US with domestic or international destinations, so it will apply to some foreign travel. The fact that it only applies to “select” trips certainly makes sense; Google wouldn’t want to guarantee a price on a route where they have reasonable confidence that prices will drop due to the number of seats for sale, historical fluctuations, and the treasure trove of data they have collected.

Personally, I wonder what will happen if someone books a route that later goes on sale price-mistake-style: will Google automatically generate the refund email, even if the carrier ultimately decides not to honor the low fare? Some people may hit the airfare lottery.

Gary at View from the Wing repeats Google’s claim that you’ll be automatically refunded the difference, but based on the screen shots he provides it looks like you will automatically receive an email with instructions for how to get your money back. That’s an important distinction to me as it sounds like you’ll automatically be notified, but you’ll need to proactively monitor your email. That’s still a great deal — I just wonder if part of Google’s test here is in figuring out how much it would cost if everyone took advantage and how many people take the steps to request the refund. Again, I could be incorrect in my understanding because the announcement makes it sound automatic — but the screen shots Gary shows tell a slightly different story.

I’m actually really intrigued as to how Google is using data on this, both from the standpoint of airfare pricing data to predict price fluctuation and in how they think they can influence consumer behavior with this offering.

Additionally, Google really intends to add value in terms of offering customized recommendations for your trip. Once you’ve booked a flight, it will give you information about where to stay and what to do — including things like descriptions of various neighborhoods that could help you pick the right hotel. I think that’s a huge value-add. When I’m looking to book a hotel in a city I haven’t visited before, I’m often totally lost as to where I should stay before I spend an hour or two Googling and reading various TripAdvisor-type threads about the different neighborhoods (which is always a challenge to start since I typically don’t even know the names of the neighborhoods at the beginning). Google is really smart to break that down. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them further tailor future recommendations based on the preferences you demonstrate. I find the invasion of privacy marginally creepy, but certainly no less creepy than Cathay Pacific’s new privacy policy. At least here I’ll be seeing some benefit from the invasion.

Read more in Google’s full announcement here.

H/T: View from the Wing

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