ITA Matrix is something I talk about a lot as it’s the best way to search for flights. It’s an incredible search engine that gets utilized very little by even the most frequent travelers. The only reason that I can come up with as to why is that it’s not user friendly and you can’t actually book flights on the site iteslf. If it’s the second reason, don’t be so lazy. And if it’s the first, I’ll show you how to use it. It’s pretty simple once you know.
There is no need to spend hours searching tons of websites and searching different dates on each website , airport options, locations, etc… Quit wasting your time and learn to use the ITA Matrix Software. It will take a few minutes to read this and it will save you tons of time (and money) in the long run.
You can search anything including multiple airports and multiple destinations, all at once. So let’s say you live in DC and are able to use any of the nearby airports, just click “Nearby” and click each airport or “select all”.
Similarly, you can search nearby airports by typing in the codes and separating the airport codes with commas. This does require knowing airport codes to type in multiple codes: IAD, DCA, BWI, PHL. But if you don’t know just type in the city and the autofill will tell you the code.
You can use multiple airport codes to search multiple destinations. Say you have vacation time coming up and you can’t decide if you want to go to Bali, Phuket, Fiji or Sri Lanka- just type in the airport codes, separated by commas and it will tell you the cheapest flight option for each day (if you’re browsing the “calendar of lowest fares” or change the exact date default option from “on this day only” to something within a day or two of that day). If you do this multiple destination kind of search it is critical to uncheck “Allow airport changes” as it might find you a ticket that flies into Bali and leaves from Fiji.
Even if my dates for leaving are limited I tend to use the calendar of lowest fares all the time. This will show all options for 30 days starting on the date chosen. It also searches different lengths of a trip. If you were able to stay at your destination somewhere between 7 to 11 days, type in “7-11″ in the “Length of stay” box. It will then show me 30 days, the cheapest option for each day and once you highlight that day it will show each trip length price for that day.
Regardless if you were flexible in your times and regardless of whether you used the calendar or not, once you’ve clicked the desired day and price, the next screen is actually the most impressive.
On the day and time you’ve chosen it will show you the next best prices for flights and airline options while showing you everything about those routes including connecting cities, times and lengths. You can also click any of the category tabs to see more info, like price differences for departing times, arriving times, number of stops and which airports/destinations.
Clicking further will break down the fare, but if you just want to see the routing for the flight in more detail (or less code), click the details in the top right available when hovering over the fare.
One feature that makes all the visual learners giggle is the “Time bars” which can be selected in the top right on the results display. The neat thing here is that you can still sort by price, duration or whatever you’d like and see the visual. The grey sections represent the airport you’ll be waiting around at and the color sections are the flight. The longer the bars are (left to right), the longer your flight or airport wait is.
How to Book
You can not actually book on this ITA Matrix Software. You’ll have to book on another airline site (like expedia) or book on the airline’s site directly.
More Advanced Options
This is the part that I think people have trouble with, the fact that you have to know special ITA codes. There are a few codes that might be most relavent to the average person. Many people who try to be loyal to specific airlines could type in that airline’s IATA code. For American Airlines you’d type “AA”, for United you would type “UA”, etc…
To indicate that you are willing to take multiple connections add a “+” symbol, “AA+”. If I’m trying to really earn more miles I might try routing through certain destinations on my way to see if it would bring in more miles for the same cost. Use an “X:” and then the location. Like “X:NYC” and you can combine codes by separating with a comma.
The more you use it the easier and the awesomer (that’s a word! Look it up, geez! ) it gets. I do hope this “how to” was helpful, and that you start using ITA Matrix Software when you go to look into your next trip.
The following codes as shown by clicking the “?” next to the advance routing boxes:
|C:AA||Direct flight on specific carrier|
|C:AA+||One or more flights on specific carrier (see examples tab for other options)|
|AA,CO,DL||Direct flight on one of carriers specified (C: is optional)|
|O:AA||Direct flight on a specific operating carrier (as opposed to a codeshare or subsidiary carrier)|
|O:AA,O:CO,O:DL||Direct flight operated by AA, CO, or DL|
|N||Any single nonstop flight|
|N:AA||Nonstop flight on specific carrier|
|X||Any single connection point|
|DFW,STL||Connection in one of specified points|
|F||Any single flight|
|?||Zero or one flights|
|+||One or more flights|
|*||Zero or more flights|
Also Google has a much more in depth and more advance tutorial here.