Can AI find you the cheapest plane tickets? How Google and Skyscanner compared. (2024)

  • Skyscanner’s Savvy Search and Google’s Gemini are AI-powered tools that can help you plan your trip.
  • Both tools can also find you cheap flights, but Gemini was able to find the lowest price.
  • Skyscanner’s tool is a good starting place if you don’t have a destination in mind.

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When booking a flight, chances are you want to score the best deal. This is especially true now that flights from U.S. airports are more expensive than they were a few years ago.

There are already a few tools out there to help you find affordable airfare, such as flight price trackers and low-fare calendars, but what about those new AI tools? Travel search engines like Booking.com, Expedia and Skyscanner have recently launched AI-powered features to help customers plan their vacations.

These AI trip planners – which act like chatbots – assist travelers in planning aspects of their trip, like finding accommodations and destinations, even building an itinerary for them. But some of them may even be able to help you find cheap flights.

Launched in May, Skyscanner’s Savvy Search tool is powered by OpenAI’s ChatGPT and “accesses a vast database of over 18 million flight routes and 80 billion daily price searches to offer the best travel recommendations,” Laura Lindsay, Global Travel Trends Expert at Skyscanner, told USA TODAY.

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Google’s own AI tool, Gemini, is a “creative and productivity tool” that also can help travelers with trip planning, according to a Google spokesperson. Gemini can also connect to and access “relevant information from the Google tools you use every day,” from Google Flights, Google Hotels, Google Maps and Google Docs, according to a Google spokesperson. So you can check out flights, hotels and driving directions all in one conversation with Gemini.

I tested Skyscanner’s AI Trip Planner and Google’s Gemini to see if they could find me the most affordable round-trip flights for a trip from Honolulu to New York for the week of Aug. 18-25. For reference, a search on Google Flights on Thursday afternoon revealed the cheapest flight was a $761 round-trip ticket on United Airlines in its basic economy cabin. Here’s what I found.

What is it like using Skyscanner’s Savvy Search?

After creating an account with Skyscanner, I easily found the Savvy Search on the mobile app's home screen. I had to input my departure city and answer the question “What kind of trip is on your mind?” Getting straight to the point, I typed in, “What are the cheapest flights from Honolulu to New York for the week of August 18-25?”

Savvy Search offered “three recommended places,” including New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Not really what I asked, but I suppose the answer was technically there. I clicked to see flights for New York and was taken to a list of flights to compare. I could sort by “best,” “cheapest,” “fastest” and “direct,” as well as choose my cabin class and add other travelers.

The cheapest flight that came up cost $645 round trip, and although inexpensive, it wasn’t looking easy. Both my departing and return flights would be self-transfers, requiring me to recheck any bags and go through security again, and it included an 11-hour layover on my return journey.

Can AI find you the cheapest plane tickets? How Google and Skyscanner compared. (1)

I went ahead to book, and because Skyscanner is a flight comparison tool, the AI took me to an outside travel platform called DoHop, an Iceland-founded travel search engine that creates “unique connecting flights,” according to its website. I’ve never used DoHop before, and when I continued with my booking, I discovered I was also being charged a $32.64 DoHop booking fee and $12.50 if I wanted to bring a carry-on. (Only a personal item is free.)

The total was $664.83, about $97 cheaper than what Google Flights found.

I also tested whether Savvy Search could find me cheap flights without a destination in mind (only my budget). It offered Los Angeles, San Francisco and Tokyo. The cheapest option to Los Angeles was two direct flights on Alaska Airlines for $341. Once again, it sent me to book externally, but this time through Kiwi.com.

Booking through third-party vendors like Kiwi or DoHop can be tricky for travelers, especially if things don’t go as planned, because airlines and hotels won’t typically claim responsibility if you didn’t book directly with them. Often, third-party support isn’t always reliable.

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What is it like to use Google’s Gemini to find cheap flights?

I accessed Gemini through its website – which required a Google account sign-in – and asked the same question I posed to Skyscanner's Trip Planner. Gemini warned me that it “doesn’t always get it right. Be sure to check the following flight details.”

Can AI find you the cheapest plane tickets? How Google and Skyscanner compared. (2)

Gemini provided five flight options, with the lowest price one a $615 round-trip flight on United Airlines – $49 less than what Skyscanner told me and $146 cheaper than my own Google Flights search.

Gemini told me how long the entire journey would take with each flight option, plus layovers. I clicked the flight I wanted and was taken right to Google Flights, where I could book through the airline or adjust my flights.

I tested out other prompts, such as finding the cheapest flight from Honolulu for the same dates. (The answer was a flight to Maui for $160 round trip.) Since that answer was a bit obvious, I tried again, asking for flights not within Hawaii. (That would be San Francisco starting at $354 round trip.) I also asked if it was a cheap time to fly from Honolulu to New York in August. (No, because summer break is peak travel season.)

The verdict

As far as finding the cheapest flight, Gemini takes the cake. I liked how seamless it was to move between Gemini and Google Flights. Although I wouldn’t want to book Skyscanner’s cheapest flight, I think it’s a helpful tool to compare prices and see the range of options. (Maybe you don’t mind a self-transfer.)

I mainly like how Skyscanner’s tool recommended a variety of destinations when I asked for affordable flights from Honolulu, so it’s a good starting place if you don’t have a destination in mind. In fact, this is what half of Skyscanner’s users do, according to Lindsay. You can also ask Skyscanner for affordable destination alternatives and look for flights from there.

Overall, both AI tools can fit into any passenger’s repertoire when searching for the best flight deals.

Kathleen Wong is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in Hawaii. You can reach her at kwong@usatoday.com.

The Key Points at the top of this article were created with the assistance of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and reviewed by a journalist before publication. No other parts of the article were generated using AI. Learn more.

Can AI find you the cheapest plane tickets? How Google and Skyscanner compared. (2024)
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