I often use the ITA Software Matrix, which is one of the most useful tools to search for available flights and low fares. Google has another aggregator now that is faster than ITA Matrix–Google Flights–which is also very useful with a smoother user interface. But if you know the tricks and codes to input into ITA Matrix, you can be a lot more specific in your queries than you could be using Google Flights.
Using ITA Matrix
First, go to matrix.itasoftware.com.
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. By clicking the Advanced controls link, two extra boxes will pop up, one under the origin and one under the destination. ITA Matrix is awesome, in that you can type in all kinds of commands like which airline or even specific fare class you want to fly in these advanced control fields.
In the example above I wrote HA into the boxes, which means ITA Matrix will 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.
After the cities, you can search the standard way by typing in departure and return dates or the way I prefer. I prefer to search certain length trips one month at a time for the lowest fares by selecting “See calendar of lowest fares.” I’ve asked the ITA Matrix 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. You can ignore fares in light blue (though $447 is still a great price). You are targeting the cheapest days, which are in 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 the 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 online travel agency you prefer.
I use ITA Matrix because a quick one-minute search can show me a month at a time on a specific airline or all airlines. Then I can go the airline’s site, select seats, and purchase easily.
Searching in a Foreign Currency
You can easily search for a ticket in a foreign currency using ITA Matrix. At the bottom of the search box, change the Sales City to a city in the country whose currency you want displayed.
Doing so will change the point-of-sale. Why would you want to do that? Tickets can be a lot cheaper. Read more in Buying Plane Tickets in Foreign Currencies.
Best Card to Purchase Airfare?
First consider if any of your premium travel cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Citi Prestige, have a balance of unused travel statement credits. The Reserve comes with $300 of travel statement credits that reset after each cardmember anniversary. The Prestige comes with $250 of travel statement credits that reset every calendar year. Check if you’ve earned all credits within your card’s online account. If you haven’t, then purchase airfare with that card.
If you’ve already maxed out travel statement credits and/or are looking for a credit card that will earn you a big return on airfare, consider the:
- The Platinum Card from American Express which earns 5 Membership Rewards per dollar spent on airfare booked directly with an airline or through Amex’s online travel portal (so no 5x via online travel agencies like Expedia or Kayak)
- The Business Platinum Card from American Express which earns 5 Membership Rewards per dollar spent on airfare booked through Amex’s online travel portal
- The Citi Prestige which earns 5 ThankYou Points per dollar spent on all airfare
If you’re more concerned with travel insurance than return on spending, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is your best bet.
Other Valuable Resources for Finding Cheap Airfare
If you have plenty of time before your desired departure dates, then I recommend setting a price tracker through Google Flights. The handy tool will record the prices each day over time so you can eventually buy on a price dip. Read about how to track the prices of a specific flight or the prices on a specific route in How and Why to Use Google Flights Price Tracker.
To learn the best Twitter accounts to follow for news about cheap flights, read the Top 3 Twitter Accounts to Follow for a Free Roundtrip to Europe.
Bookmark this post, and bookmark ITA Matrix. Knowing how to use it will increase your ability to find exactly what flight you want at the best price.