Although burning the points you have earned is great, sometimes it may be a better option to purchase a specific flight, depending on when and where you are going. In this post, I’m going to introduce an advanced online booking system called ITA Matrix which focuses on detailed flight searches.
First of all, one of the greatest benefits of this program is that it is completely free of charge (how much better can it get)! ITA Matrix is great if you have a specific route or airline you would like to take for a flight. I will be using some examples to explain some of the routing language used in ITA Matrix searches.
We’ll take a look at a sample flight from Ottawa (YOW) to Miami (MIA). On the homepage of ITA Matrix, you can see that most of the information needed is similar to other online booking services such as Google Flights or Expedia. You enter the Airport code or city name in which you are departing from and then enter in the airport code or city name in which your destination is in.
The difficulty comes from the blank located under your departure and destination, you will find that it prompts you to “enter outbound routing codes”. You have a few options here, which I will briefly talk about in this post.
First, you can enter the airline you would like to fly such as UA for United Airlines. If you would like to fly through either Chicago (ORD) or Washington (IAD), you may enter ORD,IAD; the comma means “or” in this case. You can also use the same code for the airline you would like to fly with. For example, if you would like to fly Air Canada or United, you may enter AC,UA in the blank. Because ITA Matrix is created to search for a specific flight, it is very important to narrow your options as a general search will cause the system to pend (endlessly).
Now you can click search. Here are the results we get:
We searched for a flight from Ottawa to Miami, using Chicago or Washington as a segment to get to our destination. So you can see that the result flying to our destination will only show us those particular results. Now if you hover over to the right side of the page where it says “details”, you will get a description of the entire flight.
You will also notice that the return flight is flying with American Airlines (AA) rather than United Airlines (UA) and flying through Philidelphia (PHI) as a segment rather than Chicago (ORD) or Washington (IAD) due to the fact that we had not specified the return route in the original search. So you can see how the options can vary based on how narrow your search becomes.
In similar programs such as Google Flights, you will not be able to see the breakdown of the airline ticket. However, what I love about ITA Matrix is that it shows you this breakdown of prices so that you know where the extra fees are coming from. Although the program is amazing for specific flights and routes, you will not be able to book revenue or award travel on the ITA Matrix website; but there will be an option to enter the homepage of the airline site to which you will be able to book that particular flight.
A quick reminder: if you’re not ready to purchase the ticket yet or would like to send the itinerary for a friend or family member to view, you will not be able to use the link provided in the URL as the link for the ticket will disappear minutes after you have searched it. Fortunately, there in an “email itinerary” link at the bottom of the results page in which you will be able to use or you can take a screenshot of the page.
Overall, ITA Matrix allows users who are familiar with the different hubs in which their preferred airlines fly to take on a more advanced search. Otherwise, if you’re just starting out with ITA Matrix, you may need to do a bit of research on your own. In an upcoming post, I will be introducing more advanced routing language found within ITA Matrix.