PhocusWire reported last month on the pilot program in which Google is offering to give consumers a refund on flights if the airfare purchased drops before departure. Monday’s announcement confirms that policy while also unveiling Google’s other new tools.
First among those is a new way to browse hotels.
"Finding a place to stay should be easy and fun, and we know that browsing on your phone is how many people get started with that process," a Google spokesperson wrote to PhocusWire in an email. "With this new format, we’re combining a more visual and easily browsable experience with all of the detailed information you typically find on our hotel search tool."
Google vice president of travel products Richard Holden described in a blog post how it works.
“If you search for something like ‘Soho London hotels’ and tap to view more, you’ll find a new option to explore each property in a swipeable story format,” Holden said. “From here, you can tap through photos of the hotel and get a sense of what to expect on-site. With a single tap, you can also save the hotel, pull up more details about the area or view a summary of what people find notable about the property. When you’re done, just swipe up to continue browsing.”
Another new feature set to launch on desktop globally starting next week automatically organizes places users have searched on Google Maps by city with a “Recents” tab. Travelers can share them with friends or save them to a new list. The lists and recent places will be saved when users return later.
For the flight price guarantees, the pilot program for now includes only select routes where Google is confident prices won’t go lower before the flight departs. If that happens by at least $5, Google will pay the difference to the consumer in Google Pay, where it can be used to make purchases online, to transfer to another Google Pay user or to transfer out to a bank account.
While some airlines such as American, Delta and JetBlue allow consumers to re-book a trip if they find a lower fee while avoiding fees for changes or cancellations, travelers must monitor fares and request the change. Google is offering to do it automatically for any fare designated with a “price drop guarantee” symbol.
"We’ve seen really positive feedback from people who’ve taken part in our initial testing," the spokesperson said. "There’s really no downside for the traveler, since it’s free to get the guarantee. Likewise, we’ve had productive conversations with airlines and they’re interested in how this program might evolve."
After acknowledging a surge in travel-related queries on its site to pre-pandemic levels, Google has continually updated services for consumers and travel businesses alike.
Last month the company added features to its artificial intelligence-powered advertising platform Performance Max to aid hotels in generating creative elements that will work across all of Google’s channels, including Google Maps, YouTube and Gmail.
A year ago Google added free hotel booking links in its search results page and in Google Maps. At that time, Google also created new data visualizations to help hotels and online travel agencies understand the traffic they are receiving through the free booking links.
Last May Google launched new features so that Google Flights users could track prices between two cities for travel and be alerted to lower fares. At the same time, the company updated tools for road trips to easily learn more about the area surrounding a planned destination.
In September, the company updated its tools to make it easier for travelers taking trains in and around Germany, Spain, Italy and Japan to shop directly in Google Search.
In October, the company began displaying ticket prices for attractions and booking links for related experiences on Google maps.
BY DEREK CATRON