7 Ways to Use ITA Matrix to Find Your Perfect Flight Itinerary

Aug 8, 2019

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If you frequently look for the best plane ticket or a nice deal, you will probably know that finding and using the right tools are half the work. Most people will be familiar with search tools like Skyscanner and Google Flights, but the most powerful tool of all is a little less known and a little less sleek: ITA Matrix.

ITA Matrix is basically a user interface for the large GDSs. A GDS is, in essence, a large database all airlines input their flights and fares into so that travel agents (both online and human) can browse and book flights available.

A small caveat is that these GDSs do not contain all available flights. Some low-cost carriers circumvent these systems because of their overhead and high cost and choose to develop in-house booking systems. When using ITA Matrix, you will not find flights from Ryanair and EasyJet, for example, making it more useful for long-haul and premium-class travel.

Let’s check out five ways you can use ITA Matrix to find the perfect ticket.

In This Post

1. Flexible Dates

Where most booking tools let you search only a specific date, ITA Matrix allows you to select options like or the day after, or the day before and plus/minus 1 or 2 days. That little extra flexibility gets you to a ticket faster. When viewing the results, make sure to use the Time bars view for a visual overview. A mouse-over will show details about a flight segment, like booking class and aircraft type:

2. Personal Preferences

The more often you fly, the more you will know which airports you like and which you don’t. ITA Matrix includes a lot of powerful ways to search for a specific ticket, where conventional search tools only differentiate on price. In the Advance Routing Codes fields, you can input endless commands to configure your perfect flight. Don’t want to transfer in Paris Charles de Gaulle? I don’t blame you, and neither does Matrix: just use code ~CDG to prevent a stopover in the City of Lights.

On another occasion you might want a long stopover — when flying into Rome at 11am, you might as well grab lunch at a nice piazza instead of hanging around at the airport. In that case, a five-hour layover might be better than a two-hour one in order to prevent rushing. For this scenario, you can use minconnect 300 to ensure a connection time of at least 300 minutes. See how we are getting more technical here?

If this platitude of options gets you as enthusiastic as it does me, check out this extensive article on Advanced Routing Codes.

3. The Right Codeshare Partners

In some cases, a flight is codeshared by more than one airline. That means the same flight will have different numbers, like DL47 and KL6020, which represent the same 9:55am Delta flight from AMS to JFK. In some cases, KLM will sell this flight slightly more expensive than Delta. If you are a Delta SkyMiles member, however, you might prefer this flight to be KLM-marketed over Delta-marketed, because it will yield you more Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) — even if it costs a couple of pounds extra. In that case, use the airline routing codes like the example below to find only KLM-marketed flights:

4. Multi-Origin Searches

When flying from London, you can use the aggregate IATA code LON to simultaneously search all London-area airports at once in most booking tools. When you fly from somewhere else, however, that gets increasingly harder. If you live in Stoke-on-Trent, for example, you might be indifferent between departing from Birmingham and Manchester. Performing every search twice is dreadful, so have Matrix do the work for you:

5. Multi-City Itineraries

Some fares allow lots of stopovers. Your options to take advantage of that are pretty limited with most booking tools. With ITA Matrix, however, you can input up to six city pairs. That comes in handy for long itineraries or mileage runs, where you’d rather fly more segments than less to maximise elite-qualifying currency like XPs or Tier Points. If you combine this with Advanced Routing Codes, you can have one city pair exist of multiple segments, too. Use for example BA BA BA to ensure three separate British Airways-marketed flights to complete one city pair.

6. ITA Matrix vs. Google Flights

Ever since Google acquired ITA Software back in 2011, no real new development has taken place on Matrix, hence the outdated user interface. It still does what it needs to do, but recently, some options have disappeared. It is no longer possible to search multi-country origins, like for example AMS, BRU, DUS. Speculation among enthusiasts is that Google is trying to push Google Flights, since it earns an affiliate kickback on the flights booked through that platform. Many Matrix fans, including myself, hope that Matrix will stick around until Google has at least incorporated all of the advanced booking options into Google Flights.

7. Booking Your Tickets

Now that you have found your perfect ticket, all that is left is booking it. Since ITA Matrix is not set up as an affiliate tool, it doesn’t provide direct booking links. If you have a real-life travel agent, just send them a screenshot of the results page and they will know what to do with it. If you don’t, there are several alternatives. You can use BookWithMatrix, which provides a user-friendly way to convert your result into a booking link with several websites. Alternatively, you can go full pro mode and use ITA Matrix Powertools for even more direct booking options like Delta Air Lines, British Airways, Turkish Airlines and more.

Featured photo by Hero Images/Getty Images.

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