Free First Class 2014: Cheap Flights, Fuel Surcharges on ITA Matrix


This is the twenty-fourth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

I use the ITA Software Matrix for two reasons:

  1. to find cheap flights
  2. to find the fuel surcharges on award tickets.

You can search ITA Matrix for roundtrip paid flights for departures over a 30 day period and trip lengths of your choosing. That makes the ITA Matrix another tool for finding cheap paid flights like Kayak price alerts.

On ITA Matrix, you can see a breakdown of a ticket price into base fare, taxes, and fuel surcharges. This makes ITA Matrix invaluable for estimating the out-of-pocket cost of booking an award ticket when fuel surcharges will be included on the ticket.

  • How does the ITA Matrix’s monthlong search work?
  • How can you find the fuel surcharges included on a paid ticket and why does that matter for award tickets?

Searching for Cheap Tickets

On ITA Matrix, type in your home airport and destination airport. You can use airport codes like JFK (New York-JFK) or even city codes like NYC (which includes JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark.)

For this example, let’s look at JFK to Honolulu.

ITA Matrix is awesome, so you can type in all kinds of commands like which airline you want to fly. Scottrick has a great post with examples of the commands you can use. In the example above, I wrote HA into the boxes, which means only return Hawaiian Airlines results. I did that because Hawaiian has a direct flight from JFK to Honolulu. If you leave that blank, all airlines will be returned.

I also prefer to search certain length trips one month at a time for the lowest fares, so use that section of the form by selecting “See calendar of lowest fares.” I’ve asked it to search for 3-8 night itineraries leaving in the month of January.

After you click Search, you will be taken to a calendar displaying the lowest fare departing each day. The cheapest fares are displayed in bright orange.

Clicking on a particular date will bring up the lowest prices departing on that date and returning 3-8 days later. Once you have found a comfortable length of time, click to display the flight.

Unfortunately ITA Matrix is only for finding airfares. You don’t have the ability to book directly through this site. Write down the dates and flight numbers that work for you, and book directly through the airline site or a portal that will earn you miles.

Finding Fuel Surcharge Info

The other use of ITA Matrix–besides finding cheap flights–is to figure out the fuel surcharges on a routing. ITA Matrix gives a breakdown of every dollar of the price of a ticket including fuel surcharges.

For the airlines that charge fuel surcharges for booking awards, the fuel surcharges you see in the price of a cash ticket will match the fuel surcharges you have to pay. I’ll give the same example I gave in my post on fuel surcharges when redeeming Delta SkyMiles for partners.

If I wanted to book an economy class award from JFK to Moscow on Aeroflot with Delta miles, I would be on the hook for surcharges. To double check what the Delta agent tells me–or to know what the amount will be before calling–I can search for the same flights on the ITA Matrix. If I select them, I will see a breakdown of their ticket price.

Anything on the breakdown labeled as YQ or YR is a fuel surcharge.

In this case, the fuel surcharges would be about $240 roundtrip, so I would know the cost would be 60k miles plus taxes plus $240.

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  1. Hi Scott,

    I just booked Singapore Airlines awards using KrisFlyer miles. I booked first awards from PVG-SIN-AKL and the total YQ taxes came out to 382 SGD. However on ITA matrix for the same exact route and day, the total YQ taxes show 297 SGD. Is there a discrepancy on ITA matrix or Singapore Airlines when it comes to calculating YQ? Thanks!

    • The total you paid out of pocket was 382 SGD? That was probably 297 SGD in fuel surcharges and 85 SGD in government taxes.

      • Total out of pocket was 445.90 SGD inclusive of all taxes/fees, etc for the whole PVG-SIN-AKL flight. The YQ portion is broken out in the receipt as 382.60 SGD. And there was another YQ fee (don’t know why there are two) of 12.80 SGD.


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