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Gone: no more ability to quickly find cheap British Airways 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 (72)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • YB says:

    Do you think we’ll see similar functionality coming soon from Google Flights then?

    • Mud Island Mlungu says:

      The functionality is still there albeit in limited format. That being that if you know what the permutations used to be IE: AMS-LHR-DUR-LHR-(LGW)-AMS, you can still find trips. Xmas this year £1700 currently and one can miss the return last leg.

      Just requires a bit more work now.

      • Alan says:

        I wouldn’t recommend recurrently missing the last leg.

        • Paul says:

          Why not? Are there recent examples of people caught out doing this?

        • Alan says:

          @Paul I don’t know but people have run into problems before, I’d suggest just play the game and enjoy the low fare. Those living outwith London need to take an extra flight anyway so it’s not like its much extra hardship for Londoners.

  • Tina says:

    I searched for multiple start cities last month and thought it strange that it didn’t work as per usual…. Thought it may have been a glitch. Now it appears sadly not. At least it will still work for domestic USA flights

  • Dave Winchester says:

    Google flights allows you to search multiple start points – I believe it’s limited to 5 in the search box but you can also view on the map which shows more

  • JamesR says:

    I’ve always found ITA matrix clunky, slow and poor when it comes to finding cheap flights.
    I tried it a few times and always was able to find cheaper deals using google flights.

    I don’t know why this is as a lot of experienced flyers in the game have always sworn by it.

    As I never was successful with it I don’t really mourn its loss of features.

    • GabeS says:

      Hi Rob
      Do you have by any chance any information about the very poor avios tracking from BA Amex.No avoid awarded for usual transactions,avios promised for using Amex on BA’ online store,etc.Deplorable service from BA,Amex promised to look at the past six months missing avios,nothing yet happened.Leaves me no choice but to finally cancel it and take a competitor card!

      • Anna says:

        I’m not sure your query will be seen given you’ve posted it as a response to an unrelated comment and not in the “Bits” section. I would firstly re-post it in the Bits section, however think your only option is to raise a formal complaint with Amex if you haven’t done already. This would then be investigated by the UK based team who are pretty good at sorting these things out – and offering compensatory avios!

    • Doug M says:

      I think if you want a cheap flight A to B then you may have found Matrix a chore with its more techie requirements. Matrix came into its own for controlling routings, fare buckets and the more elaborate requirements of people looking to max out tier points for example. If you were looking for say US west coast then Matrix was fantastic for cheapest starting point, Helsinki, London, New York, Los Angeles and a last short hop, say San Diego. You could try to find dates and times if you were flexible on them where the US transcons were first class, Matrix is excellent for that.

  • jk says:

    Google are doing a great job at messing up Google Flights!

    • Jack says:

      I agree completely, the new UI is horrible. I have a link to the old UI saved because it’s about as go as it gets currently

      • Tom1 says:

        does the old version still work?
        if it does, could you share the link please?

        You used to be able to switch to ‘classic flights’ but that has disappeared for me for the last 1-2 months.

  • Paul says:

    Thought matrix was brilliant once I had mastered the codes. How can reducing functionality be strategic as surely people won’t use it? Google flights was never nearly as useful.

    • Bagoly says:

      So people use Google Flights instead where they get more advertising revenue.

  • ZumoDeNaranja says:

    It’s not THAT hard to split your sesrches by coubtry of origin. The Matrix is stjll a useful tool, just needs a bit more efforst up front…

    • butzi says:

      …only if you’re *not* living in Europe. Living so close to borders makes it tempting (and financially attractive) to search for flights accorss borders. Besides: Inside Schengen, borders have become nothing but a word…

      • HappyHarry says:

        In my case, I previously I had a text file containing 22 lines with 5 cities per line e.g.
        ACE,AGP,ALC,ALG,AMM … AMS,ARN,ATH,BCN,BDS etc.

        I now have a file with 45 lines with between 1 and 5 cities per line e.g. GNB,LIG,LYS,MRS,NCE … MUC,NUE,STR,TXL

        So it’s about twice the work to do a thorough Matrix search of the same complexity as before, but as I have written a java script for it, which inputs the origins, destinations, dates etc. and scrapes the lowest fare displayed, I can just leave it ticking over all night and not really notice a difference 🙂

    • TomT says:

      Will it still show those multi-national trips though, e.g. DUB-JFK-WAW, as in the article?

      Wouldn’t searching all Irish airports only pull anything that returns to Ireland?

      • Nick Burch says:

        Friends living in Lille in northern France fly from French, Belgian and Dutch airports almost interchangeably depending on which is cheaper for a given trip, so it’s a bit loss for people like that living near borders with multiple big airports close but in other countries!

    • Aeronaut says:

      What’s needed is for someone to conjour up a bit of screenscraping software that will go and quietly perform multiple ITA queries for several European countries and then consolidate them all together in a list.

      Of course ITA/Google would doubtless be less than keen on such a tool.

      • Lady Londonh says:

        And they’d probably recognise it as a robot and block it.

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