Lately I have been looking at flights, from locations in the US to both Europe/Asia,

I usually just buy on expedia for an easy life. As a curiosity I've also been using "google flights".

The thing is, Expedia seems to only know about, let us say, "normal full priced" flights. But Google flights pretty much always has quite cheaper flights, they dig up.

Here's an example from a minor US hub to London

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It seems to apply evenly, no matter what the search pair.

I loathe google as much as the next guy but no Scotsman can throw away money.

Question, what is the specific mechanism or data partner that expedia don't know about these fares?

Do both entities have identical access to the same raw information, or is there some advantage one has over the other in access to raw information??

  • 1
    You have somehow selected "United only" on Expedia. Maybe that's in your preferences or something? Google still finds cheaper flights, but an "all airlines" search on Expedia goes down to $1682.
    – jcaron
    Commented Oct 13, 2018 at 23:03
  • SIGH - @jcaron, thanks, I uploaded two bad examples, confusing the issue. Just to be clear (even when you actually click the correct buttons :) ) there seems to be ALWAYS cheaper fares on goog. flights. I mean I saved like $2000 on a flight the other day. WTH??? (actually $1750 specifically saved. they had some stupid "phone in" deal to SAS, versus "full frieght" on Expedia.)
    – Fattie
    Commented Oct 13, 2018 at 23:18
  • I recently came across a comparison of flight search engines with some explanations. It's no longer in my browser history but perhaps you can find it. Commented Oct 13, 2018 at 23:25
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    Couple of points: non-7 days is not really unusual, e.g., at my office international travel is strictly depart Monday morning, arrive home Friday afternoon, and in past jobs I've never seen a "7 days exactly" rule; second, Google bought ITA Software some time ago, and they are the premier guys for pricing flight itineraries. Their algorithms are leaps and bounds ahead of anyone else's.
    – Calchas
    Commented Oct 13, 2018 at 23:27
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    For your specific itinerary from the question, the return flight differs for me between Expedia and Google Flights. Additionally the return flight at Google Flights is sold as "separate tickets", which could also explain the much lower prices since airlines are not responsible in case of delays. If you turn off the "separate tickets" option under the more tab above the flights, then the cheapest option on Google Flights is even a bit more expensive than Expedia. However I am not sure, if this always the case/root of the lower prices on Google Flights. Commented Oct 14, 2018 at 5:55

1 Answer 1


Expedia and Google work differently, but this has little to do with "secret" information.

First of all, the main difference is that Expedia is an online travel agent, while Google Flights is a flight search engine.

What that means is that Expedia (or booking.com, or other online agents) will actually sell you the ticket: You pay Expedia, you get the ticket from them, they deal with the airline in the background.

Google flights (or Kayak, or Skyscanner) are search engines. They will collect as much information as possible and show you the cheapest price, but they don't sell tickets. To book you have to go to the airline, to a "normal" travel agent, or to an online agent like Expedia. They often get money from the airline or agent for sending the customer, but they aren't part of the transaction.

This means that Expedia will only show you the prices for tickets they actually sell (they won't tell you if things are cheaper over at booking.com).

Google knows most of the prices, and they have an idea if the ticket is still available, but they cannot guarantee the price. If you try to book from a fare search portal, you'll sometimes find that the cheapest fare isn't available.

Some booking sites, like Expedia, have special deals with the airlines, and can offer tickets cheaper than the "standard" price. Search engines know about those, but not about all of them. These special fares can only be booked through the site that has the deal, obviously.

But remember: If you buy a ticket through an online travel agent, any modifications have to be made through that agent and not directly with the airline. If they sell the ticket extremely cheap, they'll often try to make money elsewhere and may do things things like paid-only customer service or "service charges" for any ticket modifications.

Finally Google flights also shows you fares that are not available online - many other search sites don't, because won't earn money on those transactions.

This is what happened when I tried your search: Google instructed me to call the airline and book the ticket on the phone. It is still possible that the fare is not available when I do or that the airline will calculate taxes and surcharges differently than Google thought they would.

Finally, if you use Expedia or such sites, it is always worth to try and search for "Hotel+Flight" - in some cases that combination can be cheaper than the flight alone.

  • Ahhhhhhh ! Well - that is the answer and explanation.
    – Fattie
    Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 15:48

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