Google is testing a new offer that provides a price guarantee on flights to consumers, giving them a refund if the ticket price bought falls before take-off. An official declaration regarding the trial is anticipated to be made next month.
The trial guarantee program that is accessible for specific travel routes is currently offered only on some flights from Spirit Airlines and Alaska Airlines. The company says its “algorithms are confident that the price you find is the lowest available before the flight departs”. In order to avail the offer, bookings have to be made directly with the particular airline through Google.
Upon inquiring about further information regarding the program, a Google spokesperson says, “We’re currently testing price guarantees in the U.S. as part of our broader goal to help travelers feel confident they’ve booked the best price for their trip.”
Back in August 2019, Google organised a comparable trial that was initially applicable for flights booked to travel during a two-week duration spanning from mid-August until early September. However, the company had to halt that pilot due to the COVID outbreak. Currently, the company is contemplating the feasibility of extending price guarantees on a long-term basis.
Though many airlines such as American, Delta and JetBlue have stamped out cancellation fees or fees for changes in most fare classes, there is a difference between offers of these airlines and that of Google’s. What JetBlue et al offer consumers is the facility to re-book an itinerary if they discover a lower airfare, thus putting the onus of monitoring the fare and initiating change on the traveler. Refunds are then given by way of future flight credits.
In the case of Google, the company automatically monitors airfares labeled with a ‘price drop guarantee’ mark, until the first flight of any itinerary takes off.
During the said period, if the airfare experiences a drop of at least $5, Google compensates the difference by providing a refund to the customer via Google Pay. The refunded amount can be utilized for making online purchases, transferring to another Google Pay account, or withdrawing to a bank account. Typically, Google issues refunds within 48 hours after the departure of the initial flight.
As per the program’s conditions, travelers are eligible to receive a maximum refund of $500 per calendar year, which can be availed for up to three bookings with price guarantees, concurrently. Additionally, the price assurance policy is applicable only to flights that originate from the United States, booked using a U.S. address and phone number.
In September, Google declared the discontinuation of the Book on Google feature for flights, effective by the end of the month for users outside the U.S. and from March 31 onwards for U.S. users. However, Google affirms that it is evaluating alternatives to provide price guarantees to customers in the absence of Book on Google.