ITA Matrix: How to Search for Cheap Airfare with Flexibility & Other Tips

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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.

Bottom Line

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.

CardMatch™


Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

The comments section below is not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all questions are answered.

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67 COMMENTS

  1. Hey Scott, love your work on this site!

    Just wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing something with ITA. Doesn’t google flights have the same flexibility and results along with superior interface/usability? By selecting the calendar, you can easily choose the number of days of your trip and graphically see prices across the entire month (and also scroll to other dates with ease using the arrows). I also find it significantly faster.

    Is there anything the ITA software can do that google flights doesn’t?

    Thanks!

  2. Obviously, It doesn’t always work.
    I checked the flights I need on ITA, and I was surprised with the price as it was incredibly cheap. However, when I went to the website of the airlines, the actual price was way more than that. Disappointed.

  3. I love the ITA Matrix website. What I don’t love is that for the life of me I cannot find the fares it posted. I’m trying to buy LAN round trips Santiago-Punta Arenas and Santiago-Calama. ITA lists fares of around $147 pp. All the websites list fares around $447. I’ve tried all the major search engines but the fare is in the $400’s. I’ve emailed the ITA link, to 2 travel agents and tried to book the fare directly with LAN. No dice. Any ideas?

    here is the link below but it’ll probably expire by the time you try.
    http://matrix.itasoftware.com/view/details?session=77757e2b-3dc8-4ffc-8216-8588076968e0

    Fare construction on that page is

    SCL LA PUQ Q12500 20000OEESP963 LA SCL Q12500 20000OEESP963 CLP 65000 END XT 25.00CL

  4. Same problem for me, specific to flights with LAN in Chile. A $347 fare I keep finding is only bookable at $1000+ online or at a travel agent, even when they use the fare construction!

  5. I found a cheap business flight from Bkk – NYC, however, when I clicked to see the shown price – it was adjusted and would appear to be not the same price. Like for instance, it showed $2000 and after the click to see more details it’d appear to be $3000 with number of airlines.

  6. Same for me, files look great on ITA matrix, but looking on kayak, airline websites and with a travel agent did not give me the option of having the fare I saw…

  7. I have been sing “ITA” since long before it was acquired by Google and have always been impressed with it. There however is a potential major/minor limitation, depending on your travel plans. NOT ALL AIRLINES ARE AVAILABLE VIA ITAMATRIX. Southwest Airlines with service to 101 US cities plus 8 foreign countries (including Cuba!) does not share its schedule with any independent search engine. Which cities? Take a look at: https://www.southwest.com/flight/routemap_dyn.html?clk=GSUBNAV-AIR-ROUTEMAP. So if your plans include any of these cities, always double-check Southwest’s Web site after using ITAMATRIX. Another is Allegiant (G4), a low cost air service that charges for everything, including carry-on luggage.

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