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Google is starting to predict when fares are likely to rise for some specific flights and routes. It’s also forecasting how much a user might save by booking right away.
Users holding out for a better deal can now opt to track a flight or route and receive email alerts when fares are anticipated to change.
Adding predictions of price changes for plane tickets is a catch-up move.
Fare forecasts have been common on a few travel metasearch platforms like FareCompare, Hopper, Kayak, and Momondo for some time.
But Google’s new predictions of fare changes — along with its new email alerts to warn users if fares are likely to increase — may lure some customers away from the established metasearch competitors, given its mammoth user install base and its superior load time for delivering comprehensive search results.
It was back in 2003 when the concept of predicting airfares using data analytics first appeared with the startup Farecast. Around the same time Rick Seaney’s Fare Compare began to deliver a similar price-prediction service using a different methodology.
Farecast was a free service that helped travelers decide whether they should buy a ticket now or wait and hope that the fare drops. After raising $20.6 million, it was bought in 2008 by Microsoft for about $115 million. But Bing’s travel play never got traction with consumers.
Other travel metasearch brands dismissed fare forecasts and price tracking as gimmicks that didn’t lead to conversion.
But in 2013 Kayak added a price predictor tool, signaling a shift in industry views on the concept.
Last year, mobile-only startup Hopper claimed hockey-stick growth, and nabbed several mobile awards, for its service that relies heavily on fare forecasts and price tracking notifications.
Google’s move 13 years after the birth of the fare forecasting concept shows the long and winding route that some innovations take in the travel industry.