Matrix by ItaSoftware is the most powerful tool for searching for cheap airline tickets and it’s free. In our opinion, it’s the meta-search engine with the most features for you to find the best airfares as it allows queries with multiple parameters.
- ItaSoftware Inc. is a company that provides technology solutions for the travel industry. The company was acquired by Google in 2011.
Matrix has several pros over traditional meta-search engines such as Kayak and Skyscanner. It allows searches with different filters or restrictions (for example, connecting airport, airline, stops, etc.), search with multiple airport options, search with flexible travel dates, etc.
The main downsize of Matrix is that tickets cannot be purchased on the website and there is also no price alert mechanism.
In this post, we will explain how to use three features of the Matrix website to get the cheapest airfare and the most convenient flights:
- how to search for the best dates to travel to a certain destination;
- how to search with multiple airport options;
- how to find multi-city tickets with flexible dates.
A. Searching for the best travel dates
If you have flexible dates for traveling, this Matrix feature will be very useful.
Suppose you want to travel from Los Angeles (LAX), USA, to Bangkok (BKK), Thailand, and want to know the best dates to travel, i.e., the ones with the lowest airfares. Suppose you also want to stay between 15 and 20 days in Thailand in 2021. BKK Airport will be your port of entry and departure.
Follow the steps below:
1 – Go to the Matrix website (type http://matrix.itasoftware.com on your browser)
2 – Enter the city of departure in the Departing from field (in this case, LAX)
3 – Enter the destination city in the Destination field (in this case, BKK)
4 – In the Dates field, select See Calendar of lowest fares
5 – In the Departing field, enter the departure date. We’ll start at 1. April 2021. So type or select 04/01/2021.
6 – In the Length of Stay field, type the period you want to stay at the destination. You can set a fixed number of nights at the destination (for example, 15 nights) or an interval. We enter 15-20, to stay between 15 and 20 nights.
- The maximum range is 7. For example, 8 to 15 nights, 10 to 17 nights, and so on.
7 – You can also define other parameters, such as the currency (other than the currency of sales city), the number of passengers, and the cabin (Economy, Economy Premium, Business, or First Class). If you want to travel in economy class, just select the option Cheapest available.
8 – Click the Search button
Each search is done for departure dates over a month. In this case, from 1/4/2021 to 1/5/2021. And for each departure date, prices are searched to stay from 15 to 20 nights at the destination.
In April, the best departure dates are 1st, 5th, 21st, and 22nd of April 2021.
The best price is US$ 493.
If you place your mouse cursor on the departure day (for example, 5. April), a yellow table will show the lowest airfares for different lengths of stay. In this case, you can get the lowest airfare (US$493) if you stay 15 nights.
- Airport and other fees are included in the price shown on the website.
By clicking on this option, the website will display the flights. Sometimes, we can get even better airfares. In our case, US$ 491 with American Airlines. But for just a few dollars more, you can also fly Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines (JAL).
Now that you have found the lowest airfare for April 2021, you can repeat the same procedure for the other months and you’ll find out the cheapest prices for the year.
2. Search with multiple airport options
Suppose you want to travel to Europe in July 2021 and want to find out which destinations are cheaper. We consider traveling in the first two weeks of July, i.e., in the high season.
In this search, dates are almost fixed (plus/minus 1 day) and destinations and/or departure points may vary.
Follow the steps below:
1 – Go to the Matrix website (http://matrix.itasoftware.com)
2 – In the Departing from field, enter the codes of the main US airports separated by commas. We selected New York City (all airports) and Miami.
3 – In the Destination field, enter the codes for the main airports in Europe.
LON, PAR, MIL, ROM, BER, FRA
4 – In the Dates field, select Search Exact Dates.
5 – In the Outbound Date field, select the 1. July 2021. Select the Plus/Minus 1 day option, to allow a little flexibility in the departure dates.
6 – In the Return Date field, select the 15. July 2021. Select the Plus/Minus 1 day option, to allow a little flexibility in the return dates.
7 – Click the Search Button.
The cheapest option is purchasing an Air Caraibes return ticket from New York City to Paris for US$ 476,00. These flights are operated by French Bees. The first flight departures on 2. July from Newark Airport (EWR) and arrives at Paris Orly Airport (ORY). The return flight departures on 16. July from Orly Airport and arrives at Newark Airport.
- The second cheapest option is to fly to Berlin, Germany, for US$ 560 with United Airlines.
If you click on the U$ 476 Button, you can get more details on the flight and its airfare.
2.1. Destinations near a given airport
We are now going to do a search covering not only the main airports in Europe but several airports around a given airport.
1 – Keeping the same parameters of the previous search, in the Destination field, type the code of any airport in Europe, such as Frankfurt (FRA).
2 – Click on the Nearby option
3 – An Airports near Frankfurt board will appear. In the Within field, select the option 500 miles.
This way, we’ll search for flights to all airports within 500 miles around Frankfurt (FRA).
4 – Click Select all. Thus, all airports will be selected.
5 – Click outside the yellow box and the airport codes will be listed in the Destination field.
6 – Click Search
The search may take a while. In addition, the system may issue an error message (time out). In this case, just repeat the search.
Searching for nearby airports can yield interesting results for the traveler. In fact, flying to a secondary airport sometimes can be cheaper than going to the main airport.
3. Multi-city search with flexible dates
Now, let’s make a multi-city search with flexible dates. By the way, the ITA Matrix is the only tool that allows doing this kind of search. Other meta-search engines (kayak, Skyscanner) only allow you to do multi-city searches with fixed dates.
Multi-city search is useful for example if you want to add a stopover on your trip.
Let’s look at an example.
Stopover (in Dubai in the first direction)
- Day 1: New York City – Dubai
- Day 5: Dubai – Hong Kong
- Day 15: Hong Kong – New York City
Multi-city search is also useful to find open-jaw tickets (return ticket where the destination and/or the origin are not the same in both directions). In fact, the multi-city search allows you to obtain prices for a set of totally different segments, without any link between them.
Despite the flexibility offered by multi-city search, it’s not recommended to make trips with segments totally unrelated from each other, as, most likely, you will have to fly with different companies, which will imply higher airfares.
In our example, we want to fly back and forth from Toronto (YYZ) to Bangkok (BKK), with a stopover in Istanbul (IST), Turkey, on the way. We know the approximate dates (first two weeks of April 2021), but we have flexible dates for each stay.
Follow the steps below.
1 – Go to the Matrix website (http://matrix.itasoftware.com)
2 – Select the Multi-city tab (next to the Round-Trip and One-Way tabs)
3 – For each flight segment, enter the departure, the destination, and the date.
- Flight 1: Departure from: YYZ
Departure Date: 1. April 2021
- Flight 2: Departure from: IST
Departure Date: 5. April 2021
To add a third flight, click the Add Another Flight option
- Flight 3: Departure from: BKK
Departure Date: 15. April 2021
4 – To include flexibility in the dates of each segment, just change the option On this day Only, next to each flight, to Plus/Minus 1 day or Plus/Minus 2 days. We chose the flexibility of 2 days.
5 – Click the Search Button
- Hint: If you want to stopover, the best option is to fly with an airline that has a hub in that city. In this way, you minimize the number of connections and, consequently, the overall flight time. In the above example, it is recommended to fly Turkish Airlines.
In this case, the best price is CA$ 1,422 (about US$ 1,095), according to the dates described below. But, on the search results page, you’ll also find many combinations for the same price.
I hope you enjoyed these ITA Matrix features, which have been very useful in our travels. You can see that it is the most powerful and flexible tool to find cheap airline tickets.
Matrix still has many other search options to explore. How about combining the features above? For instance, a multi-city search with flexible dates and a search with multiple airport options? Enjoy!