It's the question that pains every traveler when booking flights: “Sure, I could book at this price now … but what if fares drop afterward?” Google Flights might have the solution: Cutting you a refund if prices drop.
Yes, really. In recent days, our team of flight deal analysts noticed a “Price guarantee” option pop up on select flights, promising that Google will monitor prices and give you back the difference if the price goes down after booking. Not everyone will see this unique feature just yet, but a Google spokesperson confirmed to Thrifty Traveler that they're trying it out.
“We’re currently testing price guarantees for a subset of users in the US, as part of our broader goal to help travelers feel confident they’ve booked the best price for their trip,” the spokesperson said.
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It could be revolutionary for budget-conscious travelers, but Google isn't exactly breaking new ground here.
Google itself tried this out briefly in 2019 before the pandemic brought that to a halt. Then, last year, the company told Skift it planned to revive offering refunds after price drops, with one executive saying “consumers really loved that we experimented with it before.” And Capital One has made price drop protection a signature perk of booking flights through its revamped Capital One Travel Portal.
In this case, Google isn't acting as an online travel agency such as Expedia or Skyscanner – you're still booking directly with the airline, which is critical. But by booking your flights through “Book on Google” (where you fill out all your information and pay through Google itself without navigating to the airline's site), the company can track prices for your trip and give you the difference via Google Pay if fares drop.
Much like Google Flights price alerts, Google will monitor these flights and pay out a refund based on its lowest price, but not until after the first flight actually takes off. Google's terms and conditions for this Price Guarantee program show prices must drop by at least $5 to get a refund, and those payments are capped at $500 total per calendar year.
It's all payed out by Google Pay, the web giant's digital payment platform similar to Apple Pay with a Venmo-like twist – users can send and receive money and also transfer balances to a bank account. And that underscores Google's motivation for offering this refund feature on flights: As travel demand surges back and more and more travelers turn toward Google Flights in their quest for cheap flights, pushing more users toward their app for payouts when prices drop is a clever way to drum up more interest.
This price drop guarantee is clearly still in the latest stages of testing, so not many travelers will see it when using Google Flights just yet. And so far, we've only seen it on flights operated by either Alaska Airlines or Spirit Airlines, typically on fairly cheap fares within the next few months – situations where Google can be reasonably certain prices won't drop any further.
For example, the odds of a one-way flight on Spirit from Austin (AUS) to Las Vegas (LAS) dropping below $26 are pretty low.
Both one-ways and roundtrip bookings qualify. You'll need to be signed in via Gmail to see it – and have a Google Pay account set up to get paid out.
Rare or not, we're anxious to see this option expand, giving travelers peace of mind that they can get the best deal no matter when they book. This feature hinges on the “Book on Google” checkout platform. And since that's only available on flights departing the U.S., it's unlikely we'll ever see this spread worldwide – though international flights departing the U.S. could eventually benefit, too.
Will more travelers get this option to get a refund if prices drop after booking? Will it expand to more and more airlines? Only time will tell.
Google Flights is already the best search engine for airfare, and it's not even close. Yet the platform just keeps getting better and better.
They've expanded Google Flights Price alerts to be even more powerful, added carbon emissions estimates to help travelers make environmentally conscious decisions, and more. And now the platform is flirting with doling out refunds if prices drop after booking, potentially solving a major source of anxiety for travelers.
You may not see this price guarantee feature just yet – and even if you do, it won't show up on many flights. But we wouldn't be surprised to see this become a fixture of Google Flights in the months ahead.