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Google first telegraphed its interest in the flight search and booking business last year when it acquired the travel sofware company ITA-- an action that spurred a turbulent nine-month investigation by the DOJ. Now, having made it through the regulatory gauntlet earlier this year, Google is taking the wraps off the first fruits of its labor: Google Flight Search.
The service isn't revolutionary, but it looks and works pretty much as cleanly and simply as you would expect from a Google search product. Simply by typing in a destination city or "flights from New York" into a Google search box, you'll get flight listings from a variety of airlines right in your search results. From there you can click to see a full menu and nifty web app for planning your trip.
Among the best features of Google Flight Search are the interactive visualization of your trip via Google Maps (complete with on-map prices for nearby destinations) and the ability to easily adjust your search requirements by price range and length of flight. You can see how different departure and arrival dates will affect the price of your trip right from the calendar, and you get controls over how many layovers you're willing to make and what airlines you're willing to fly via the left panel-- just like with the filter tools in a regular Google search.
When we tried to use Google Flight Search just now, there weren't many flight options for very far into the future, and some of the buttons didn't work the way they were supposed to. But those are presumably hiccups that Google will be able to fix pretty quickly.
All in all, we're not saying pre-existing sites in this category like Priceline.com and Kayak.com should be quaking in their boots at this point, but Google Flight Search does add a nice new option to the mix that's exceedingly user-friendly and convenient to access.