Google to Predict Flight Delays before Airlines

John Lister's picture

Google is attempting to predict flight delays before airlines announce them. In some cases, it might be before the airline even knows it is going to happen.

The new feature will be added to Google Flights, a service that lets users compare different options and find the best flight for their needs. This can take account of factors such as whether the user wants to prioritize price, direct flights vs layovers and total travel time. It also allows users to compare details such as baggage allowance.

Incoming Flight Delays Among Key Data

Once a user has booked a flight, the service can already give live updates on check-in times, gate numbers and delays. However, until now the last of these has relied on announcements from the airline itself (which will often also be available through the airline's own app or the airport website.)

Now Google will attempt to figure out when a delay is later and alert users of this risk. This will take account of several factors including weather problems and confirmed delays to incoming aircraft that have knock-on effects.

With all the factors, the idea is to use the vast amount of data Google has collected about past trips to try to predict patterns. For example, Google might have spotted that a particular airport and airline combination has a 90 minute turnaround time; if a plane is later than that getting in, it will be delayed on its next flight.

Prediction Is No Guarantee

Google says it will only issue an alert when its system predicts an 80 percent of higher chance of a delay. The problem is that this is still no guarantee, so passengers can't rely on the information when, for example, deciding if it's worth the risk of showing up later than usual for a flight to avoid waiting about. (Source:

Perhaps a more useful option would be when users need to book a same-day flight and want to avoid picking a cheap option, not realizing there's a good shot it will be late.

Google Flights is also getting a database update, which means its list of flight options will now specify any conditions imposed on cheap flights. This could include not being allowed to put bags in overhead lockers or not being allowed to choose your own seat. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Does the new feature sound useful? Would you rely on Google to make accurate predictions or is it too dangerous to risk missing a flight that takes off on time? Should airlines pay attention to Google's predictions themselves?

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Chief's picture

Sounds reasonable to me. If I'm booking a flight (sometime in the future), I'm not cognizant of weather issues along my flight path and worse than that, along the flight path of the airplane(s) I may be using along that path.

I would definitely use the service to determine flight dates (assuming I have leeway - and I generally do) and if I have to fly that day, be prepared. After all, knowledge is power.

If Google can consistently be accurate over time, more and more flyers will use it and the airlines may notice a shift in usage patterns. This will cause them to adjust their schedules to accommodate and possibly begin using the algorithm themselves.