Google is offering flight status information via SMS. Just send your flight number (e.g. UA 484) to GOOGLE (466453) and you get a return message with flight departure and arrival times, gate information and the airline’s phone number. (With most phones you can extract the phone number and call without having to re-enter the number.)
Flight information is a great SMS application – it requires little input and the answer can be delivered in 160 characters or less. It’s faster than trying to use the mobile Web browser to get to the airline’s Web site and navigate through the menus. And it sure beats trying to get the information through the voice-activated phone system.
Many airlines already provide the option to get mobile alerts automatically. United EasyUpdate sent me an alert two hours before my departure from Dulles last week. Unfortunately, in that two hours they moved my flight to a gate half way across the terminal.
How much does this end up costing?
It says “This service is free from Google but charges from your carrier for usage may apply.”. Does this mean Google get nothing or does it mean Google get a slice of what your carrier charge you?
In the U.S., the message (each way) would either be deducted from your SMS bundle or priced a la carte. If you don’t have a bundle, with the big carriers it would cost 30c (15c each way).
This service is only available for flights departing or arriving in the U.S.
As to the economics, there are services for which the carriers share revenue with the content providers. I don’t know if that’s the case with Google.
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