Finding cheap flights has become a sport widely played on the field called the internet. There’s a site we’ve found that does just that and more.
Long gone are the days when most people contact travel agents or the various airlines directly to find cheap travel deals. Nowadays many folks find inexpensive airfares themselves online.
Looking for Cheap Airfare Online? Try ITA Matrix
The site I used to find cheap fares is ITA Matrix at matrix.itasoftware.com. In this article, I’ll tell how the airfare search site works and what you need to know to snag cheap fares online, including the site’s best features.
One thing about ITA Matrix is that you can’t book on the site. You find the cheap fare and purchase it on the carrier’s website.
Technology has done much to disrupt the airfare search business. We told you how Google Flights’ streamlined interface has created parity when comparing air travel. But the software behind that site is the real secret sauce.
It originates from a company called ITA Matrix, formed by MIT researchers in 1996. The Cambridge, Massachusetts, firm specialized in airline metadata, which offers expanded functionalities, including cost-per-mile analysis and much more.
The magic behind ITA Matrix’s search capabilities is its QPX, or executable query technology.
ITA’s software is so good that several big-name travel players like Kayak.com, Cheaptickets.com, Orbitz and carriers such as American and United Airlines used their services, paired, of course, with payment options. (Priceline stayed with Travelport software. Travelocity opted for Sabre.)
Seeing huge opportunities in travel search, Google bought ITA in 2010. In late 2017, Google announced that it was shutting down an ITA-related project geared toward third-party developers. QPX Express API’s last day was April 10, 2018.
A larger related business, ITA Software, which powers many of the travel sites mentioned above, was spared by Google. But among the cuts was ITA Software’s mobile app, OnTheFly, which was retired in December 2017.
But take heart, consumers, you can continue to enjoy the ITA Matrix site at matrix.itasoftware.com, which as far as we know, isn’t going anywhere. The legacy site remains a robust and fully customizable airfare search site for travelers looking for the best prices, especially on last-minute fares.
ITA Matrix: Best Features
Let’s look at some of the best features you may enjoy with ITA Matrix:
Advanced Route-Coding Capability
One of the groundbreaking things about ITA software is that you can use codes to do things like avoid certain airports, limit the duration of an itinerary or exclude red-eye flights or flights with overnight stops.
In Matrix, click the Advanced routing codes link to see the routing code fields, and then enter your codes in the fields stated Enter outbound/return routing codes.
You can also explore date ranges and lowest fares by utilizing the calendar view. To see it, click “See calendar of lowest fares” instead of “exact dates” when searching.
Multi-City Flight Search
ITA Matrix allows you to search simultaneously for cheap flights in multiple cities.
No other site offers the capability to search for as many as six flights at one time. If you need to add more than two cities, simply click on “add another flight” button.
Color-Coded Time Bars
If you tend to get overwhelmed by text-based searches, try the color-coded timeline chart, which highlights stops, schedules, layovers and other options through filtered hues.
The ability to see how cheap an airfare would be a day or two later or earlier has been integrated into Google Flights, but it was originally a Matrix innovation and remains a ready resource here.
Looking at the grid to see cheaper flight options within the same week I want to travel is a major way that I save money when I fly.
As you can see, the functionality of ITA Matrix sets it apart from the travel sites. About the only thing the software can’t do is show you Southwest Airlines flight prices, which are only available through the airline’s website.
Remember, you can find cheap fares with ITA Matrix, but you have to go to the airline’s website to purchase your ticket.