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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.

  • AlexisO says:

    It’s annoying, though to be honest I find Google Flights faster. Whilst you can only put 5 cities in GF, I also found on ITA that if you put too many in it would not return all results.

    Where Matrix is invaluable is for turning a simple return to the US into a TP run, as you can easily find weird routings by using the advance searching.

    So my recent strategy, even before this recent chant, has been to to start with GF to get the starting points, then refine with Matrix. That still works nicely…

  • Stuart says:

    Sorry just to clarify : so you CAN still find cheap BA CW fares but only by searching for a specific route – right ? Like the OTP-PHX or AMS-BKK is still widely available for this year & next. It’s just the multi starting point function taken away – right ?

    • Tony Cross says:

      Yes that’s right. You can still search for multiple starting points in one country, too.

      As noted upthread, the accuracy of ITA had been going downhill ever since google bought it (& presumably stopped investing). Presumably this is a bid to improve the accuracy of the output.

      • shd says:

        ITA was always throttled. I’d say Google have actively worked to degrade it to drive visitors to their preferred consumer product instead.

        • Lady Londonh says:

          +100%. I noticed it was simply not performing searches on my regular lists I pasted in around 2-3 months ago. But i thought it was me.
          Google Flights is much less comprehensive and less accurate

    • shd says:

      …if you already know the route, you could equally well search directly at BA.com or indeed at any OTA!

      The broad (multi-country, multi-airport) origin search wasn’t available anywhere else. It’s how I came across (and ended up booking) an ex-EU QR J fare from a european origin – an airport that QR don’t even fly to!

    • Rob says:

      Yes

  • Nick G says:

    Been like this for weeks and it’s been doing my head in trying to narrow down within a certain mileage, especially in Europe, when its easy to tip over into a new country and returns an error……arghhhhhhhhh

  • Mikeact says:

    I prefer Award Nexus ….. suits my requirements each time.

  • callum says:

    That headline is absolutely ridiculous….

    It IS possible to use ITA matrix to find cheap BA CW flights (and any other type of flight), it just involves a bit more effort now.

    You can search country by country (sounds tedious but it doesn’t take THAT long as you can just click “back” and change the airports). You can also get a rough approximation by using Multi-city. For your NYC example search for LHR-NYC, NYC-EUROPE. Then do further searches where you replace whichever EU airports it came up with for your return as your starting point. I’d imagine it isn’t quite as accurate as it was with the old method – but usable.

    • callum says:

      That’s a much better headline. I’d argue that if you know what you’re doing it’s still relatively quick – but much more accurate than your previous assertion that it’s no longer possible to find cheap BA flights any more!

  • Nick says:

    Another annoyingly sensationalist clickbait headline… the functionality is not ‘gone’, it’s just ‘got harder’. I had a momentary heart-panic when I saw the headline… then a ‘phew’ relief when I opened the article. Still possible to make a good TP run and see prices/availability on chosen flights, just slightly harder to find the fare in the first place. To be honest I’ll take that deal if it means ITA keeps going.

    Incidentally, Google is trying to encourage airlines to work with them more on GFS… so this move could well be a quid pro quo for that.

    • Rob says:

      Of course it has gone. You can search city by city using any old database. The only value in ITA was ‘one click’ (and the ability to pull up fare rules).

      • callum says:

        Just because you don’t know how to do it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there…

        • Doug M says:

          Are you saying that it’s still possible to do a single search using multiple origin airports in different countries?

        • Callum says:

          Nope as the headline wasnt “ability to do a single search using multiple origin airports in different countries is gone”.

          You can search TO multiple countries however, which gives you a good indication of which airports to then search from.

      • Doug M says:

        Because Stockholm to Phoenix is cheap doesn’t mean Phoenix to Stockholm will be. Unless I’m missing the point I can’t see you’re right. I don’t see this as a disaster, between searching the usual suspects and keeping an eye on Flyer Talk I’m confident of catching the usual relative bargains. I don’t agree with Rob the functionality has gone, they’ve just reduced it. I think Matrix always had a fairly limited user base, I’ve shown people and endured eye rolls, and that’s too hard remarks. Most stick with google flights anyway.

        • Callum says:

          Which is exactly why I said gives you a “good indication”!

          I tried it on the NYC example Rob gave and it found me an enormously cheaper ex-EU fare in less than a minute. If that’s too much hassle I’m not sure that ITA Matrix would have ever been a good site for them!

    • Doug M says:

      Just playing with Matrix following this, and finding DUB to MCO for just over £1400 in J on certain dates, sub £1500 and sub £1600 on a much broader range of dates. Not sure about other destinations.

    • Doug M says:

      Just playing with Matrix and for anyone willing to Ex-EU there are fares as low as £1400 in J to Orlando from Dublin. Transit through Miami or New York and you don’t suffer the sub-standard Gatwick flights.

  • Oh Matron! says:

    If any of you are Mac users, I may have an answer. I’ve been working on an app that will ask you questions (saving you having to remember all the different codes), and then populate the fields in ITA Matrix. Won’t be much of a change to get it to spawn several windows at the same time…

  • 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

      • h2d says:

        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.

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