Advanced Flight Search – Crazy ITA Matrix Searching

In a previous article, I gave an overview of what we use to find cheap flights. A lot of our searching centers around Google’s ITA Matrix. It’s an incredibly powerful tool that I have been slowly learning how to take more advantage of it’s features, every time I flight search.

General Overview

The flight matrix can be used in many ways and used to be a lot more flexible than its current iteration. Now that it has been bought by Google, it seems that some of the features have been eliminated and somewhat kneecapped.

Airport Code Search

I find it useful for it’s ability to enter in a wide array of airport codes to search by destination or by departure point. Most flight searching tools might let you search multiple destination by price but not multiple departure points.

The matrix lets you enter an unlimited amount of departure and destination locations and will return the cheapest combination. It functions a lot like Skyscanner’s “Everywhere” search but with a bit more targeted results.

Your Location to Anywhere

For example, if I was looking at flights to California but didn’t care which city I arrived in, I could input NYC to SFO, OAK, SJC, LAX, and so on for as many airports as I want, and the Matrix will give me the cheapest destination. So if I wanted to get to SF but flying into San Jose is cheaper, I can book that instead.

Anywhere to a Location

What no other flight searches do is let you search multiple departure points. This can help you get creative with flight searching. Want to see if it’s cheaper to depart from JFK, EWR, LGA, ISP, BOS, or PVD? Just enter in all the airport codes and the matrix will return the cheapest option.

Another use if for when you want to search multiple locations to home. Can’t decide if you want to get home from somewhere in Europe? The cheapest flight home might be from Barcelona and you’re in Italy. A train or budget flight to Barcelona first might be cheaper overall instead of going direct.

Crazy Matrix Searching

With that, I compiled a spreadsheet of every airport code around the world and grouped them into regions by Continent, Country and City. I can grab any amount of airport codes from my “destination wish list” and see what’s cheap. I no longer have to rely on OTAs basic search metrics, I can find out for myself.

Once you have copied the airport code spreadsheet you’ll notice every airport listed by City, Country and Region. You can select as many airport codes as you wish to run through a matrix search. I like to make wishlists of airport codes for cities I may want to visit. The matrix will return the cheapest combination. If you want to do another search without the last result, simply remove that airport code.

How to use the spreadsheet:

  1. Use the “Airport Codes List” sheet to pick out the airports/countries you want to search by.
  2. Put an “X” in the “E” column to select the airports you want to search. After completing your selections, right click on the “E” column header and sort the sheet by A > Z. After doing this, all of the “X” marked airports will be grouped together.
  3. With your airports sorted by preference, select the list of three digit airport codes and convert them into Comma Separated Values (CSV) by using this tool:
  4. Copy the CSV list into the sheet “CSV Codes for Matrix”. You will then use these lists to start your searching. You may need to adjust your list and remove invalid codes from that the matrix doesn’t recognize. The ITA Matrix might not recognize smaller regional airports.
  5. You can use this type of searching to search a massive list of points of origin or destinations. You can and should make your own but there are some (on the third sheet in this doc) pre-made lists there to start with.

Download the Spreadsheet

Got any Matrix tips to share? Let us know!

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