Last May we told you that Google was getting into the travel business, with the Mountain View search giant having just acquired travel software company ITA. ITA provides the algorithms that power sites like Orbitz, Kayak, and CheapTickets - to say nothing of handling schedules for a bunch of airlines - and that's pretty much all it does. So Google's intentions weren't exactly inscrutable, even if the exact details of what they wanted with ITA weren't totally clear.
Then a few months later flight schedules started showing up in Google results. That wasn't particularly exciting in and of itself, but it banished any remaining doubts about whether Google was getting into the flight search game. And so no one was really surprised when, earlier this week, Google finally launched their new Google Flight Search. It's exactly what you think it is, and you can check it out here.
Our first impressions: very slick. The most obvious thing you'll notice is that it's lightening fast (functionally instantaneous). We're nowhere near confirming that it's delivering the lowest available faresthere are rumors that it's not but the interface is impressive. There are the usual filters for time, airline, and number stops, but the tool is also built to let you search by airline alliance, specific airports, and so on. There's even a flight duration filter.
The initial search screen also has a very easy way to construct connections, a feature that seems tailor-made for the Flyertalk mileage run crowd. It almost makes us think that Google might be trying to appeal to power users and frequent fliers, with the intention of stealing travel geek cred from sites like our beloved Hipmunk. Given the look and feel of the early site, they might just pull it off.