Google integrating flight options into maps

Google loves to have fun with their maps product, often offering up entertaining instructions like swimming across the Atlantic Ocean, riding a jet-ski between Japan and China or sailing from Seattle to Honolulu. A new feature in the latest update – currently showing only in the preview version of the site – has a much more useful addition included, even if it looks a bit like the “play” versions of the maps: flight options are now being integrated with the directions searches. Here’s a screenshot sent to me by a reader earlier this week:

Given the particular city pair the site gives an option for the driving route or flight options, including the blocked time gate-to-gate and a starting point for airfare. Obviously the airfare number will change depending on the specific flights and travel dates but it is still interesting to see the starting price point there.

Google still isn’t actually selling the tickets so there are a few extra hoops to jump through to get to the purchase point. Still, seeing the multiple data streams integrated into the single interface is a big improvement. Sure, they have train schedules from Europe integrated into their “directions” applet in the maps (Frankfurt to Munich by train) but no fare data inline (links are provided). For the Japanese train system the fare data is included (here’s Tokyo to Kyoto) but some of the details seem a bit amiss (14 minutes on the JR line is 50% more than 2:20 on the Shinkansen!?!). Obviously this isn’t the first time Google has tried to integrate the multiple streams of data into a useful view for users.

At the same time, however, it is somewhat new in a few ways. It mixes the driving and plane options in a single view rather than requiring a user to switch “tabs” in the map interface. It also appears to have the ability to push through to the Google Flights interface for more detailed searches and, eventually, pushing you off to a point of purchase with the specific details already selected. That’s a step up from the connectivity that is available today, though not a full integration (like Apple might be pursuing).

Ultimately not the biggest development in the travel world this year, but it is darn cool. It will be interesting to play with it and see how it does with routes which don’t offer non-stop service or where longer flights are involved. I hope my invite to the preview program comes soon!

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

One Comment

  1. Some of the Japanese search engines have domestic flight schedules built into them alongside train schedules. Hyperdia for instance, e.g.:

    Even takes minimum check-in times into account.

    I believe that Google Maps had this in place at one point for Japan but got rid of it — probably due to licensing issues.

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