Google ITA Matrix – The Ultimate Guide to Using This Tool
Uncategorised Feb 29, 2020
Google ITA Matrix – The Ultimate Guide to Using This Tool
Many of you are probably wondering what is really the best way to search for low-priced airline tickets. Perhaps you’ve been burned in the past by finding a lower fare on another site AFTER you already booked your own, and you’re just looking for a reliable deal.
In this case, it’s safe to say that the Google ITA Matrix software search tool is the best search tool out there.
Actually, most other flight search engines are based on its technology. This article will tell you more about what the Matrix is (not the Neo one!) and how to use it.
The ITA Software Matrix is a powerful tool built by MIT scientists in the 1990s to solve the problem of cheap flight tickets. Before this, no search engine could consistently return the lowest fares for travel. This original software was called QPX.
Orbitz became the first customer to use the software. Then in 2011, Google acquired the software and integrated it into its existing search engine to create Google Flight Search.
A much more detailed history exists, but essentially the software is now in use by most travel companies, including airlines, meta-search engines (such as Kayak and Orbitz), and others.
Currently, the company is in version 3.0 of the software as it has now integrated with Google. Details of the updates and the software can be found on the website.
Unfortunately for devoted users, the OnTheFly mobile app has been discontinued. Mobile users now must use a mobile browser to search ITA. There is no Google Flights mobile app, either.
Earn Maximum Points When Booking Travel
You’ll want to make sure you’re earning valuable rewards points when you’re making a booking on this platform.
There are of course other travel rewards credit cards that can earn you a bonus when you spend money on travel purchases with them. These cards collect flexible points, which means you can transfer them to many different airline and hotel partners, making them very lucrative and valuable.
We’ve written articles on Chase’s transfer partners as well as Amex’s partners if you want more information.
How ITA Matrix Works & How to Use It
In a nutshell: It’s magic, guys.
Ok not really, but just know there’s some serious engineering behind the software that you don’t want to worry about. The MIT scientists developed an algorithm that gives great results for plane tickets, and that’s what matters.
From a user standpoint, it’s a simple form where you input your desired flight details and get flight options in return. The details you input are:
Round-trip, One-way, or Multi-city
Departing from city
Advanced routing codes (optional)
Dates (exact or calendar)
Outbound/Departure Date exact or flexible date options and preferred times)
Return/Arrival Date (exact or flexible date options and preferred times)
Number of adults (children or seniors optional)
Number of desired stops
Extra stops allowed
Other (airport changes, only flights with available seats)
Currency (optional, defaulted to currency of departure city)
Sales city (optional, defaulted to departure city)
(If you’re already familiar with the basic tool, you may want to see our advanced guide.)
Now, we’ll go over all the sections and describe the various data you put into all the fields to find your cheap plane tickets.
Round Trip, One-way, or Multi-city
First, select your type of trip. The difference between round-trip or one-way is that you won’t be allowed to select return dates for the latter.
If you want more than just a “there-and-back” trip, selecting multi-city allows you to choose multiple different departure and destination cities.
Departing From City/Destination City
Type in the airport code (ORD, JFK, etc.) or city name and the Matrix will find the appropriate airport. You can also have it select all airports within an area if there are multiple.
Advanced Routing Codes (Optional)
Use these to choose or exclude specific airlines as well as many other options. These are discussed in detail in the advanced section.
Dates (Exact or Calendar)
This option allows you to choose by exact or flexible dates, or elect to see a calendar. If you stick with “exact dates” you’ll get the next two options.
(The calendar option is also discussed in more detail in the advanced section.)
Outbound and Return Dates (Exact or Flexible Date Options and Preferred Times)
Put in the dates you need if your trip days are inflexible. Otherwise, use the options to make your departure and arrival time flexible up to +/- 2 days. You can also select preferred flight times if you want to restrict the search to a certain time of day.
Number of Adults (Children or Seniors Optional)
You’re likely searching for flights for yourself or another adult as well, but you can also add children and seniors as needed.
Cabin Type (Class of Service)
Keep default selections to stay in economy (‘cheapest available), or change to premium economy, business, or first.
Number of Desired Stops/Extra Stops Allowed
In this section, you can choose to look at only non-stop, one-stop, or two-stop flights. Then, you can also have the program search a range, such as 0-1 stop, 0-2 stops, etc.
Other (Airport Changes, Only Flights With Available Seats)
These two options can be used to ensure you make it back to the same airport you left from and don’t have to swap between airports on multi-stop trips.
You can also search for airline tickets even if they don’t have seats, in case you want to compare. United airline tickets
Currency and Sales City
These two advanced options will be discussed in the second part of this article.
A Search Example
In February, I took a flight from Austin to Seattle (ski season!). I knew I wanted to travel around February 23-29, but I was flexible up to a couple of days. Delta airline tickets
Here is what I input (note that we’ll skip the advanced features for now)