Gone: no more ability to (quickly) find cheap BA Club World tickets via ITA Matrix

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If you wanted to save money – a lot of money – on British Airways Club World (or any other airline) tickets by starting outside the UK then there was one piece of free software which was essential.

What is ITA Matrix?

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

ITA Matrix was hugely powerful because you could search from multiple departure points at once.

Let’s imagine you wanted to fly to New York.  You could type in:

AMS;ARN;ATH;BRU;BUD;CAI;CPH;DUB;FCO;FRA;HEL;IST;LCA;LIN;LIS;MAD;MLA;OSL;OTP;PAR;PRG;PSA;SOF;VIE;WAW :: BA+

…. as your Departure City, and then New York as your Destination City.

ITA Matrix would search for flights on BA from ALL of these starting points, covering most of Europe.  In one click you could track down countries where British Airways was quietly knocking out tickets on the cheap.

How to use ITA Matrix

ITA Matrix is now a lot less useful

A recent IT change – which is not an error, it is strategic – has made ITA Matrix virtually useless for our purposes.

You cannot now search for fares from different departure countries in one search.

You CAN still search for prices from multiple airports in the same country.  Using

ABZ,BFS,BHX,BRS,EDI,GLA,INV,LCY,LGW,LHR,LTN,MAN,NCL,NQY

…. as your departure point would search for flights leaving from major UK airports.  This is nowhere near as useful, however, especially for BA flights when the best deals will usually be in mainland Europe.

(If you have never used ITA Matrix and the coding above looks like nonsense, take a look at this HFP article which explains how it works.  Or, more accurately, how it used to work.)

Before you ask …..

There is no other website or piece of software which has the same functionality.  Google Flights has a five city limit.

You could never book flights via ITA Matrix.  All it did was scour the airline systems for the prices.  You had to plug the exact times and dates into Expedia or an airline website in order to book.  With no revenue stream, there was little incentive to keep it going as it was.  The reason Google bought it was to get hold of the team, which was set to work beefing up Google Flights.

This is very annoying …..

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Comments

  1. jeremy i says:

    I think the headline is really helpful actually.

    Anyway, isn’t the solution to have five or six links with groups of ex-EU departure cities pre-populated in Google Flights. (So you basically bookmark five Google Flight links which enable you to run through the key ex-eu cities). You would then just click through each one and insert your destination? Sorry if I’m not using the right language but I think you get the idea?

    • Nick Burch says:

      I’ve had good deals before which left from one country and came back to a different nearby one (e.g. From Amsterdam but back to Brussels). If you only search one country at a time you’ll miss those

      • You still have the ability to include destinations in multiple countries in the return leg using a Multi-City search, so would argue that functionality is not gone. As alluded to it will just require multiple searches vs. one all encompassing search as previously.

  2. Graham Law says:

    With A bit of patience and Google flights you can get the results you need. I was looking for flights to SIN lately and found most northern Italian Airports were pricing up as the cheapest origin.

    Maybe our friends at flyertalk can build a matrix of best origins for particular destinations.

  3. Is it not true to say that the chespest start points for most UK residents (ie those living outside the “m25”) was almost certainly AMS or DUB? Both these airports are close to the UK and have very good connections to the majority of UK regional airports. The thought of taking a flight to Oslo or Madrid to get to the USA is to me a nonsense – even if you do save £100 overall. How much any individual’s time is worth is of course a personal matter, but AMS and occasionally DUB will get you the extra tier points and Avios in just the same way as Bratislava or Rome!

    • Historically it was Lisbon, then there was a period it was Budapest …. it moves around! Lisbon over Amsterdam is not a lot of difference if your local airport flies to both.

    • It was not about saving £100 it often saved £1000’s per passenger. I have flown ex EU for under £1500 to destinations where the fare ex LHR was north of £4000 on the same plane for the same seat on the same day….thanks to Matrix.
      Its bizarre that an AMS search cannot include Dusseldorf or Copenhagen.

  4. Djouzef says:

    “There is no other website or piece of software which has the same functionality…”
    Not True — > kiwi.com You can even combine whole departure countries with cities… also check the feature where the departure or destination can be marked as circle on the map and it finds flights from / to all airports within that circle.

  5. Boobaholic says:

    Anyone got lists by country ?????

    Can’t just do 300 miles radius anymore as it picks multiple nations airports 🙁

  6. Boobaholic says:

    O/T: Since Qatar’s inexcusable 60% devaluation without warning I am looking to use my QMiles on partner airlines so its costs Qatar real money instead of just a seat on a plane (yeah, yeah, that has a cost too).
    Anyone know any sweet spots of their partner award chart ?? I know they are bound to not be very sweet, but the best of a bad lot !!

    Anyone know which of the partners charges the least in tax and fees ??

    https://qmiles.qatarairways.com/ffponline/ffp-online/RedeemPartnersEngine.jsf

    http://www.qatarairways.com/PrivilegeClub/redeem%20qmiles%20on%20airline%20partners.page

    I have sent off a few queries to Qatar but expect very little to no help whatsoever !

    Cheers,
    James.

    • callum says:

      I would strongly urge you not to use your miles out of spite… Qatar will not notice in ANY way, shape or form – either that you’re doing this or that it’s cost them any money. Use them for the best option you have.

  7. This is a very annoying change! Mind you good TP runs seem to have dried up anyway in the last few months.

  8. Matrix/ITA has slowly degraded under Google ownership. A couple of months ago there was a chance a search would not return all the available flights, which you might not realize. That behavior seemed to happen if the Advanced fields were empty, and adding a simple “+” (without the quotes) seemed to fix it.

  9. “Not an error but strategic” – can someone explain this. What possible strategic advantage do you get from making your product significantly less useful to users.

    • It is a product no-one pays for and which Google only bought to get the team, which has so far failed to make Google Flights as good. They need to therefore force users over.

    • the real harry1 says:

      Effectively forcing people to use Google Flights instead (ads revenue)

  10. Hi Rob – GF no longer has a 5 city limit, so while still not as useful as Matrix, at least they improved that

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