Google Gets in the Prediction Biz — At the Airport

To its fans, Google Flights is the best side project you've never heard of. An idle daydream of a grand vacation can become a lot more solid while you're browsing flexible prices, locations, and dates. Now, in addition to its suite of data-driven features, Google wants to one-up itself and save you some stress as well.

In a blog post last month, two Flights product managers introduced the program's new delay predictor. Using its massive database of flight information and a machine learning algorithm, Google will now flag flights it's more than 80 percent confident will face delays. In addition, you'll also get Google notifications about flights airlines have actually announced have fallen behind schedule.

"We still recommend getting to the airport with enough time to spare, but hope this information can manage expectations and prevent surprises," the product managers write. It's worth planning for these kinds of bumps in the road wherever possible, not least because this year's winter storm season has been so messy. According to USA Today, more than 1,700 flights were canceled nationwide on Friday due to heavy snow at Midwestern airports like Chicago's Midway and O'Hare, both major airline hubs. At least 4,400 delays also snarled up travelers.

Of course, this new Google Flights delay predictor isn't foolproof. It's best to rely on official communication from the airline about your individual flight. Still, it may ease some anxiety, when you're rushing through traffic to reach the gate, to know that your plane is late too.