Google Flight Search vs. Bing Travel: The Search Engine Showdown

  @ibtimes on September 21 2011 2:45 PM

On Sept. 13, Google released the new Google Flight Search feature, but how does it stack up to competitors?

Google has slowly entered the travel market with a similar hotel search and the acquisition of Zagat, a popular restaurant guide. However, when Google bought ITA Software, specialists in organizing flight data, it was rumored that something big was in store.

Bing Travel is the closest competitor to Google. It too is a search engine gone travel.  Bing is a fairly new company created by Microsoft to take over MSN Search and Live Search. Bing Travel rose to prominence in the travel industry after buying FareCast, a previously popular travel site that predicted the best time to buy a flight.

The two competitors in the travel search showdown will be competing in five categories to determine the best flight search Web site. Let the games begin!

Design

Google.com/flights
Google.com/flights

Known for its simplicity, Google takes the win in the design category. It's refreshing to view a screen without advertisements, and users can search by either clicking destinations on a map of the U.S. or manually entering destinations. Search results appear in a simple linear fashion.

Speed

Google search results are many times faster than those of Bing. Google's super-fast technology loads search results instantaneously whereas Bing results could take up to a minute.

Destinations

There's no competition in the destinations category.  Bing has the search ability for both international and less-popular U.S. airports, unlike Google.

We're working hard to improve this feature and look forward to sharing more updates, Google said on its official blog.

Price

Both sites have similarly priced flights. However, Bing is able to search more airlines and outside travel Web sites. On Bing, a customer can mix and match flight companies because customers can buy their flights through other travel search companies such as Vayama or CheapOair.  Boxes can also be checked that will upload a comparison site such as Expedia or Priceline.

On Google, when users want to buy a flight, they are redirected to the airline's site directly, which doesn't allow for any mixing and matching. Another factor is that only participating airlines are included in the search, meaning some airlines are left out completely.

Google also only displays the price for economy flights, while Bing users can choose from economy, business, or first class in their search results.

Features

bing.com/travel
bing.com/travel

Both sites have interesting and different ways to search flights, but Bing's price predictor is completely unique to the site. Customers are told to buy or wait and with what percentage of confidence. If you're flexible with dates on a trip, the price predictor can provide a calendar mapping the dates with the lowest fares.  There are some drawbacks to the predictor in that it only includes popular destinations, on roundtrip economy flights.

Google does have some great optional search features users can try out as well. If the dates are flexible on a user's trip, there is a calendar that displays cheapest days to fly. Or, if a person is set on the date, they can use a graph to limit search results by time.

The Verdict

In the end, Bing is the better flight search ... for now. Bing offers more results, which often translates into cheaper prices. It also has the totally unique price predictor.

However, Google has the technology, speed, and, most importantly, the vast amount of Google users.  Google is a great pre-booking resource. If you're curious about ticket pricing, like almost everything in life, Google will tell you the answer.

Just as Google slaughtered Yahoo and AOL Mail, great things are expected from the search giant.

This is just an early look: the takeoff, not the final destination! Google said when announcing the feature on their official blog.

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