How to use ITA Matrix to find cheap British Airways flights from Europe

I have run many articles over the past year on how you can save money – a lot of money – on British Airways Club World tickets by starting outside the UK.  At present, Dublin and Oslo are providing the best results but this can change.

Using ITA Matrix

The key to finding cheap ex-Europe BA long-haul flights is a nifty bit of software called ITA Matrix, which is now owned by Google.

Once you’ve got your head around ITA Matrix, you can very quickly do your own fare searches and find your own deals.

When you go to the ITA Matrix home page, you will see what looks like a more complex version of Expedia etc.  Unfortunately, it likes to work in code and not in plain English!  This is how you get it to work.

Under ‘From:’, cut and paste:



(Delete the gap between LIN and LIS when you cut and paste)

This is a list of major European airports by airport or city code.  Some of these starting points are a long way from London, so you will need to sort the results to find somewhere you would be happy travelling to in order to start your trip.

Under ‘Destination:’, enter:

[the airport or city code you want, eg NYC for New York] :: BA+

eg NYC :: BA+

Under ‘Dates:’, enter rough dates that suit you.

Under ‘Sales city:’ enter LON.

This is important, it ensures pricing is in £ and that you are only shown tickets that are bookable by a UK resident.

Make sure ‘Allow airport changes’ is ticked so that you see connection flights into Gatwick and City as well.

Under ‘Cabin’, select the cabin you want – let’s assume ‘Business’. 

If you want World Traveller Plus seats, you need to add ” / F BC=T” to the end of the ‘From’ and ‘Destination’ lines as this is not an option in this box.

Under ‘Only show flights with available seats’, decide whether to tick or not. 

If you MUST travel on a certain date, tick it.  If not, leave it unticked as you will get an idea of prices even if they are not available that day.

You’re done!  Click ‘Search’.

When you get your results, re-order by price as it does not happen automatically all the time.

An example

Let’s try to find a good New York fare.

Under ‘From:’ I use the first line of code above:  



(I delete the gap between LIS and MAD when you cut and paste)

Under ‘Destination:’ I use NYC :: BA+

Under dates I use 3 July to 12 July (note that a 7-day minimum stay applies to a lot of very cheap fares).

Under ‘Cabin’ I select Business.

Under ‘Sales city’ I type LON

Under ‘Show available seats’ I tick, assuming I must travel that day

And this is what you get from ITA Matrix:


As I would have guessed, a Dublin fare is at the top.  Only a little more expensive is an option from Milan which may be of interest if you wanted to wrap an Italian break around your US trip.

Because we left ‘Show bookable seats’ ticked, it SHOULD be possible to book these seats via or even Expedia.  It is a case of trying to get the exact same flights to show up.  At worst, if you ring BA and give them the exact flights that come up, they should be able to pull up the same price.

Fare rules

One upside of these fares is that cancellation and change policies are often more generous than they are from the UK.

ITA Matrix can show you the full fare rules if you click on a price (eg £1,159) and then on the underlined ‘rules’ word under ‘How to buy this ticket’.

For the £1,159 Dublin to New York fare, for example, you will see that the ticket can be changed for €300 plus any fare difference.  It cannot be refunded, however.  Stopovers are allowed in Europe for €75 which may be handy if routing on Iberia via Madrid.

This is obviously a very brief overview to a very complex issue.  I also do not claim to be an expert on this!

I haven’t considered, for example, which cities earn higher European tier points.  Start in Athens for example and you get 80 tier points instead of 40 tier points for the short-haul sectors.  This could be worth paying a little more for if you are chasing status.

And you must remember that you MUST take the first flight.  You CANNOT get on the long-haul plane at Heathrow.  Your ticket will have been cancelled as soon as you were a no-show for the European flight.

Coming back, you have to fly the last leg unless you have hand baggage as there is no guarantee that BA will tag your case just to London.  One way around this is, if possible, to have your final flight leaving from Gatwick or City – BA is then forced to tag your bag just to Heathrow.

Legally BA is entitled to pursue you for the fare difference but is unlikely to do so.  It may (and occasionally does) pursue a travel agent who books such a ticket for you – the agent is legally liable as they make the contract with BA – so if you plan to skip a final leg then make sure you make your own booking and do not involve a third party.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)

Bits: new Pullman hotel in Liverpool, Marriott / Starwood takeover latest
Bits: more on Avios from Nutmeg, AA charging seat fee when booked via BA, £15 Uber code to beat tube strike
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our FREE emails via this page or the box to your right.


  1. anyone know if any agents other than Propeller who have been “pursued”? or was it a one off?

    • There were numerous before, including some corporate travel agents I know of who had been persuaded by employees to book these. There is nothing new in this.

  2. The suggested list of airports is a bit strange. Do you really want to spend 10 hours going to Cairo and back just to get 12 hours in a J seat to NYC for slightly cheaper?

    A lot of closer airports are also missing.

    This is what I use:


    • Cairo was historically the cheapest place by far for these deals. It has been overtaken by Dublin and other nearer places recently.

    • Good list but I’d add LON and MAN just incase

    • You may also be going somewhere other than NYC for which Cairo isn’t such a diversion…

    • No harm in leaving CAI there – the cycle might well swing in its favour again. If it comes out at the top you can quickly decide if it’s worth the hassle.
      I originally “discovered” and wrote down this method in (having just checked) 2005 so that’s 11 years and no-one’s yet bought me so much as a beer! At the time TIP was in the list and plenty of people were willing to fly down there, even needing to arrange “invitation letters”, for the savings. But I think that one’s legitimately off the list for now!

    • I would certainly add SVG to your list – very easy b2b option

      • I did SVG b2b last year. On way back to LHR in CE I was the only passenger.

        The cabin manager came over and said ‘You were on the outward weren’t you?’

        He ended up mentioning it to the pilots who found it rather amusing apparently. However seen as though I was the only passenger I was given a few bottles of the Blue Top to take home. I’ve had worse Sunday mornings than a quick trip to Norway. (I headed on to KUL later that evening and eventually onto SYD later that month).

  3. Charlie says:

    My partner and I recently flew to New Zealand for a wedding, with 3 days in Brisbane on the way back. We routed from Bergen (BGO>LHR>SIN>SYD>AKL AKL>BNE BNE>SIN>LHR>BGO) as it made a huge difference in price: £1850 in club, compared to £3800 just flying from LHR.

    On the way back we asked in Heathrow if it was fine for us to not get on the plane and finish our journey here (we asked at the service desk by boarder control/domestic transfers) and were told it was no problem, just head to baggage and ask at the desk down there to find your bags. Downstairs, the staff were very helpful, and made the arrangements for our bags to be pulled from the store and put on the carousel.

    We had to wait a little while for the bags, but at no stage did anyone even question why or suggest that this wouldn’t be allowed. From what I’ve read on HFP in the past, this was not what I was expecting, but it saved us the 12 hours that we’d have getting to Norway, hanging around then getting back!

    P.S. BNE>SIN was in Qantas’ new business class, which was very impressive – highlighted by the cabin crew, who’s customer service was outstanding – up there with the best I’ve ever experienced (and I’m not just talking about the airline industry!)

    • I honestly don’t get the dropping the last leg thing. You saved yourself £2,100, in my view the price you pay for that saving is to fly the last leg.

      I just hope numerous people don’t start dropping the last leg and BA start clamping down on all of this.

      • +1

      • Surely that depends on what BA do about it :)
        If they pursue the passenger for the extra revenue would that matter?

        • airline would not be selling the ticket if it was not profitable to them … don’t see the harm really….as long as you are booking yourself directly with the airline like raffles says above and not involving someone else in the process

      • Genghis says:

        My time?

      • Totally agree, Will!

      • You drop it because you don’t want to end up in London. You book it because BA charge less for the same flights starting in different countries.

        IMHO, its something the EU should rule against. I know why BA do it, it doesn’t make it right, and it creates unecfesary pollution.

      • Slightly OT, but can anyone help on this?

        I have booked a BA ‘Viking’ fare leaving in just over a week: (OSL>LHR>SFO, SNA>ORD>LHR>GOT)

        I have booked return flights back from GOT to LHR and have a 24 hour/overnight stopover in LHR, so all being well they should short-check my bags.

        My question is, when I turn up the next day to do LHR>GOT, will they be expecting my bags to travel with me?! As I am nipping home overnight, ideally, I am hoping that I can just do hand baggage on the LHR>GOT leg.

    • +1 For Qantas. The best J experience I’ve had.

      Forget the over-the-top ME Airlines and even Cathay,

      I literally couldn’t fault the flight. The captain even came around the cabin and spoke with whoever wanted to chat to him during the cruise over the Northern Territories en route to HKG from MEL.

      I’ve never seen that happen before or since.

      Also the F lounge in MEL was one of the best I’ve been to.

      • I found QF generally excellent within Australia and trans-Tasman – have only gone long-distance internationally in QF F and I must say I was disappointed with them. The lounges in MEL and DXB were excellent however onboard service wasn’t great – particularly lacklustre on my initial MEL-DXB leg. Definitely not worth F prices (even as points) – I found SQ better.

  4. Genghis says:

    Is it possible to plug into the ITA matrix that you want your final segment to Europe from a different LON airport?

    • Yes – just use LON not the specific airport code

    • Yes, do Multi city and do the airports you want to land back to…

      The one below is when you tick the advanced option – it’s an example off the top of my head from places i can get to cheaply from the UK, but back to manchester. I normally travel light to MNL, but come back with 30kg+ so like to come back to my local airport.

      MAN,LHR,EDI,AMS,CDG,WAW,FRA,CPH,OSL (Where you would fly from)
      DOH (want to route via / or airline)
      MNL,CRK (where you want to fly to)

      MNL,CRK (fly from)
      DOH (via)
      MAN (to)

      Works well on last minute bookings, saved me £400 on a last minute Christmas flight to MNL – I normally book through momondo as they seem to be able to handle multi city tickets without an issue.

      Hope this helps..

      • Genghis says:

        Thanks guys

      • Hi, who and where are Momondo, that’s a new one on me!

        • Momondo is a screen scraper for OTA’s, the difference with momondo ( / .de etc) is that it seems to allow you to book in different currencies to get a lower price.

          Try it… btw i do not work for them, but i do use them a lot…

          BTW is you are on a mac and using chrome with skyscanner, try firefox or do the booking on your mobile as i have found a £40 price difference between chrome on a mac and firefox on a mac..

  5. No need for the bc=T nowadays, just select premium economy in the cabin box

    • Richard says:

      are you sure it works when there is a connecting flight in europe first? Does not work for me (see the post at the end of this thread). I tried it one minute ago.

  6. Frankie says:

    Is waiting out on a big sale from ‘the big three’ middle eastern airlines a better strategy if flexible, as those sale price routes DO originate in the UK? Or do they tend to be ex EU too? (Which I’d still be happy to do as I’ve only ever flew CW on my yearly 2 for 1,but simply want to try one of ‘the three’ for cash in a super sake to experience another business class airline as I’ve such good things about them). I believe I’ve heard folk talk about sub £1000 to Bangkok in J? Is that true?

    • Yes plenty of options ex EU with eg QR. You will love their J cabin, 1-2-1 config so v spacious. Makes an nice alternative to BA F, if you can get them on your 241. Yes many of us got Asia for around £800 plus ex CPH, AMS, OSL so def worth the short visits to these cities as add ons. Makes a big difference to start and finish to your holidays.
      But saying that, the last BA sale before this one allowed use of avios to reduce J prices dramatically from the Uk , so we got JFK direct from LHR. So really depends if you can be flexible with your planning.

      • OK I know I’m probably on my own here. But having just done the Qatar J Thailand thing – out of LHR and full fare I can’t see all the fuss. Wouldn’t pay full fare again. Also the changing planes in the middle of the night in Doha was a real drag. Will try Finnair next year which is cheaper and probably let’s you get more sleep. No one used the bar on either leg on the A380. Good for TPs however.

      • Frankie McPolin says:

        Thanks Polly

    • The sub £1,000 Business Class flights with the ME3 carriers tend to be ex Europe not LHR. Oslo, Amsterdam and Copenhagen come up from time to time on Qatar which s great for BA if chasing silver. I have one booked for November. And was over £800 less than QR sale price ex LHR

  7. Following an earlier article on HFP I’ve used this to great effect, once to Australia and more recently, to the Maldives, saving thousands. The extra leg back can become a bit of a pain, but for the savings, it’s well worth the effort.

  8. Mikeact says:

    May I ask, can I use this for any airline flying out of Europe, ie I’m looking for ‘less expensive ‘ AF/KLM flights ? Thanks.

    • Genghis says:

      Yes. Just don’t put BA+ Use AF+ or KL+ respectively.

    • Sure, although remember that I’d that airline is offering you a more direct option (eg KLM ex-AMS) then they’re unlikely to be cheaper – it’d be more like a BA flight ex-UK! However thanks to UK APD for long haul premium cabins you might still make a saving but it’s unlikely to be as much.

  9. What would be perfect is a similar thing that showed reward flight availability….

  10. When I did an ex-AMS return to BKK, I genuinely couldn’t take the last leg back to AMS because I had to drive my parents’ car home. I asked the stewardess if there was some way she could tell staff that I wasn’t going to take it, since I think I was automatically checked in for the flight when I checked in for the BKK-LHR leg. She said it was no problem and people did it all the time – I just needed to speak to ground staff.

    I had no time to do this, and my flight to AMS was the next morning anyway, so I went online and used the ‘Cancel my booking’ tool to cancel the last leg. Some time later, I got a refund of a couple of pounds, presumably for some of the unused taxes!

    • RIccati says:

      Genuinely or not, one would be skipping the last leg and the same policy would apply!

      The trick is not to put up with unreasonable policies.

      If people do then they will see a lot of “interesting things” from BA and any other big airline.

  11. It has been recognised on the main FT thread re TP runs that Google is allocating less processing power to ITA searches than it used to a couple of years ago – if you specify too many options it is less likely to have time to find the best deals. I would therefore cut down on the number of starting airports when running a search. Google Flights is also quite good for getting a rough feel of things before doing a full ITA search.

    I’d also say to folk, please just play the game and take the whole itinerary as booked, let’s not kill the golden goose. I know it’s annoying for Londoners to do an extra return flight once they’re home but just enjoy the extra tier points and think of all the times you don’t have to take connecting flights! AA has been known to not award points on itineraries to the Caribbean if the whole routing isn’t flown – if people miss the last flight here BA might start doing something similar which could affect those that genuinely have a reason for having to miss the end of a trip.

  12. Richard says:

    The search does not work properly if you choose “premium economy” as the booking class. This attempts to find ALL flights in premium economy or better. Since there is no premium economy inside europe, ITA will return business class (eg HEL -KUL will find business class the whole way, not economy HEL-LHR + PE LHR-KUL). “premium economy” in the cabin field will work with direct flights from LHR-KUL but not when there is a connection inside Europe first.

    You have to force the booking class using the advanced routing codes.
    Put “/f bc=t | bc=e | bc =w” and it will find the cheapest available premium economy seats (although for other airlines WET might not be premium economy and you have to ignore those results unless you also limit the airline).

    There is no easy way to check PE for multiple airlines, you must repeat the above search using the booking codes for each airline’s PE (eg CX use codes WRE, LH are using GEN).

    The searches return different results if you narrow down the criteria (eg if you limit the search to only BA then you get more connections HEL-LHR to match the same long haul flight from LHR->KUL). I suppose this is done to limit the total number of results.

    ITA can turn up some really useful results. Like a recent HEL-LHR-HKG-TPE booking on CX PE was the same price regardless of AY or BA flight from HEL-LHR. But using an AY flight number booked into Y but a BA flight number (even the same AY plane but with BA flight number) booked into K. This meant more tier points for the HEL-LHR segment.

    Btw I’m writing this as someone who lives in Finland. Not living in UK and considering “ex-EU” as starting with a flight from the UK first.

  13. Can you use this to identify potential Avios bookings to save on fuel surcharges? Got a BA Amex 2for1 to use…

  14. BlueHorizonUK says:
    • Damn, doesn’t sound good – although I guess as they manage all parts of the payment system for their cards they might still be able to have more profit than MC/Visa cards and still have rewards. Very frustrating these changes given it’s going to have zero effect on end-user or most retailer costs (will be swallowed up by payment intermediaries) and just cost us benefits!

    • Is this just for (eg) Lloyds Duo cards with both an Amexcard and a Visa/Mastercard?

  15. OT: Worth a head’s up as spotted by Seppy on Flyertalk.

    BA have added a LGW-CPT from Nov 24th, 3 times a week. Typically good avios availability for a new route (4Y and 2J per flight) but bound to go fast!

    Overnights both ways, out on Sat/Mon/Thur. So you could fly out Thursday night and back on Sunday in time for work Monday, with no jet lag!

    • Thankyou so much
      Just nabbed 2J return as has my friend in December….
      Any idea why no premium economy out of interest?

  16. I know Rob always says this but to people new to this game make sure you check aircraft type. If it appears very cheap you can usually tell it will be a short haul type aircraft. For example QR often offer what might seem cheap fares from BUD but checking the type will reveal an A320….not to sniffed at but not a 787 either!

  17. ‘….you MUST take the first flight…Your ticket will have been cancelled as soon as you were a no-show for the European flight.’

    Raffles – THANK YOU SO MUCH for this well timed gem!!!

    Iberia have just opened a new route from Madrid to Tokyo starting October (via Gatwick where I live) and offering discounted flights to get it started. I was going to book the return flights (first class as well) thinking I could just turn up at Gatwick when the aircraft arrived.

    Your post has saved me time, money and a right ‘what were you even thinking’ lecture from my other half.

    thanks again

    • When I went travelling in australia some 25 years ago I dropped an internal flight leg having decided to drive instead. (Adelaide to Alice Springs!) When I came to check in from Alice springs to Darwin they told me my whole ticket had been cancelled…. including my onward flights back to the UK.

    • What makes you think the flight stops at Gatwick? That would be weird (but interesting) and I can see no suggestion that it does.

      • The outward flight plan is flying Madrid to Gatwick, transfer to Heathrow, flying Heathrow to Tokyo.

        I can walk to Gatwick airport from my house :-)

        • But if you are flying Heathrow to Tokyo, that will certainly not be on the new Iberia route that you alluded to.

          It will be on BA, or possibly Japan Airlines.

          • It’s in the Iberia newsletter (excerpt here)

            ‘Iberia to launch flights to Tokyo and Shanghai
            Starting on 18 October from Madrid to Tokyo-Narita airport
            Starting on 18 October, the Spanish airline will operate three non-stop flights every week from Madrid to Tokyo-Narita airport.
            From today [….22nd March…], flights to Tokyo can be booked starting at 612 EUR, return.’

            The dates I looked at included BA flights, Jal flights and Iberia express and, I think, and stress THINK I’ve seen Finnair mentioned.

          • Edit: Got it now, I see that you were referring to the outbound and inbound as different routings

  18. euro traveller says:

    OT/ I booked a HBO fare for 60 quid each in the recent BA flash sale out of Gatwick for me and 2 mates. I can’t make it any more, will the other 2 still be able to fly? All 3 of us are on the same booking…

  19. Peter Phillips says:

    Earlier this week, I used ITA Matrix for my trip to the States at the end of May and decided to turn this into a tier point run to retain BA Silver – I needed 590 tier points and two BA flights.

    Routed DUB – PHL – BOS – DCA out and MCO – MIA- JFK -DUB back all on American metal and booked on AA’s site, with a positioning flight from LHR – DUB – LHR on BA. All flights in Business class.

    But because American sometimes only has two classes (domestic economy and domestic first), BA treats Domestic First as First Class and gives you First Class miles and tier points.

    This run gives me exactly 600 TP and cost £300 less even after the Dublin positioning flight than flying direct to Washington and back in BA’s recent sale. Link below shows the TP and Avios accumulation.

    Could not have done this without the ITA Matrix and trying various flight combinations, nor without Raffles’ tip about AA first. Thanks Raffles.

  20. Mikeact says:

    I’ve obviously missed something, how did you get from Washington to Orlando ?

  21. display tier points in ITA matrix? says:

    Is there a way to get the ITA matrix to display BA tier points in the search results? And yes I know about the BA Avios and tier points calculator, just wondering if there was a way to get the matrix to do the same…

    • Nope, ITA doesn’t know anything about TP/Avios. Do you know about Owen Rudge’s excellent calculator? Much quicker and easier than the BA one –

      • display tier points in ITA matrix? says:

        Thanks, Alan. I wasn’t aware of it, looks handy indeed. Is it 100% accurate though? For instance, when plugging in the details of an upcoming trip, Owen’s calculator suggests I’ll be earning 0 tier points for a TAM flight from GRU to EZE in W, when BA’s own calculator tells me I’ll actually be getting 25 tier points…

        • Generally I’ve found it pretty accurate but it can make mistakes – I’m sure Owen would be happy to update if so. Worth double-checking the partner earning page on to make sure that the BA calculator is correct though, IME it mucks things up more often than he does! :)

  22. Tried this, then checked prices individually from various airports using Skyscanner – doesn’t always show the cheapest fare.

    For example I wanted to go to Taipei, Taiwan for the cheapest business fare on a oneworld carrier in August – cheapest ITA found for the selected dates was from Frankfurt with CX but on my own search I found a fare £700 cheaper from AMS again on CX, in business, on the same dates. This would also be in the cheaper miles band for RFS.

    So overall not convinced, no shortcuts to these things – if it was easy everyone would start doing it.

  23. So many experts on here ! What I could do with, is somebody or maybe some Company, that could really help me pull the best deal together using my Avios, KL miles, and a bit of cash, to either go around the world, or NZ and back taking in whatever recommendations are out there. I liked the idea of the guy who went round the world for minimum cost and miles. Trouble is maybe , it has to be minimum Business Class for me and Mrs T ! Any advice, suggestions welcome !

  24. Had a look at Matrix. How do I search for all OW carriers in a single search, eg LON to MEL or SYD?

    I also checked LON to Seoul as I know AY have a really good fare in J from LON/HELSeoul at present. It did not show up. Only flights ex-Europe.

    Oddly enough, when I searched LON to NYC, DUB did not appear in the early (cheap) results!

    What am I doing wrong?!

    • enter “/alliance oneworld” (without quotes) in the advanced routing codes boxes if you only want to see results for Oneworld carriers

  25. just read on The Economist website that you can use ITA Matrix to search for hidden-city/throwaway tickets (all the usual warnings apply) … although had a quick look, and no sure it works so well in europe as it can in the US.

    click on “One-way” tab – click “Advanced routing codes” below Destination
    enter Departing from e.g. LHR
    enter routing code as X:ABC – where ABC is your destination e.g. VIE
    enter Destination as somewhere central in Europe (e.g. FRA) and then click on Nearby (the option only shows once you have entered Destination) change to Within 2,000 miles – click on Select All – click back to the main screen
    Enter Dates and further info – and click Search