New Google Flights Functions Inform Customers About Basic Economy Fares

Google Flights Opening Screen

There have been a lot of customer confusion on basic economy fares since Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and American Airlines introduced them in their route network in the last five years. The confusion stems from the different amenities available for these customers by each of these airlines. For example, Delta Air Lines allows them to bring on a full size carryon baggage and use the overhead bin on board while United Airlines and American Airlines do not. In an attempt to ease confusion, online flight search tool Google Flights has incorporated the amenities included for this fare type in its latest beta release.  We look at how this new function works, what is good about it and what Google can do to further improve the customer experience in design and capacities.


Google Flights

How It Works

Google Flights is an online tool that allows customers to search for fares based on specific set of criteria including date of travel, origin/destinations, cabin of service, and number of segments. This has not changed in the new beta release.

Google Flights Opening Screen

Opening Screen – Courtesy of Google Flights

The tool searches for all available fares based on the customer criteria including those from airlines directly or other online travel retailers such as Expedia, Orbitz, and Priceline.

Google Flights Search Results

Search results (NYC to CHI on Feb 14, 2018) courtesy of Google Flights

Based on the listing (sorted by price by default), customers can select a flight to get more detail information. Besides the typical price, flight times,  airport locations, seat pitch, wi-fi and entertainment options, Google Flights has added new information (highlighted by red boxes) on whether the fare is the Basic Economy variety and noted any carry-on baggage restriction in addition to baggage information for the fare at the bottom.

Fare selection detail view

Fare selection detail view courtesy of Google Flights

Clicking the Basic Economy pull down menu would reveal other restrictions for this fare and how much it would cost to get some of these amenities with a higher fare (in this example, it would cost an additional US$24 to obtain use of overhead bin (which implies that customer can bring a full size carryon baggage on board) and to choose a seat in the economy cabin in advance.  Once the customer picks the correct fare, pressing the SELECT button will transfer to the airline’s website for booking completion and confirmation (Note that airlines may ask the customer to confirm the lack of amenities available in a basic economy fare before proceeding).

Basic economy restrictions

Basic economy restrictions courtesy of Google Flights


What Is Good About This Release?

  1. Following other online travel retailers and fare aggregators like Expedia and Kayak, this new beta release provides customers with more information to make an informed decision on what tickets to buy.
  2. As basic economy fares are not the same across different airlines, a pull down menu showing the available amenities help educate frequent and leisure travellers alike
  3. Giving customers an option to choose another fare with more amenities saves time.


How Can Google Improve?

Following is a list of items that can further improve the customer experience when managing basic economy fares:

  1. Add option to filter out Basic Economy fares for those who would always wait to select seats in advance or use the overhead bin
  2. Include Basic Economy fares (e.g. with a symbol or a word) to highlight them at the initial search results. To promote fairness, this should include all fares (such as the one shown for Sprit Airlines) which have the similar basic economy type restrictions.
  3. In the detail view, Basic Economy should be highlighted with a different color or typeface to draw would be customers’ attention.
  4. Google Flights should integrate further with Google Assistant to allow voice command searches on basic economy fares and definition