- Can you get a better deal than Travelocity and other online travel sites offer? Probably so.
- They tell you what their best offer is for the search criteria you enter, but do they tell you that there is possibly a better option? Ummm.. No.
- How about mixed travel arrangements that can save hundreds of dollars in airfare on one US flight? You’d have to ask for every detail.
- Do you even know what all the options are? Now you can.
There are some tools that can help you save a lot of time and money. Moreover, even if the prices are the similar to other companies, the tools I will show you can provide you the best overall view of exactly what is going on with flight schedules, costs, and options. I book through who I want, but I search with ITA Software.
ITA Software by Google – Matrix Airfare Search
Let me tell you about this gem. This is the best flight search tool I have ever encountered…And best of all, it is the same engine that is serving data to your travel agent, travel site, and even some airlines too.
ITA Software was founded in 1996 by Jeremy Wertheimer, a computer scientist from MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, along with partner Richard Aiken. On July 1, 2010 ITA agreed to be acquired by Google subject to Department of Justice approval, which ultimately ruled that Google must license the software to other companies for 5 years.
Matrix is ITA’s public airfare shopping engine powered by their QPX technology. It is incredible, simple, gives me as much or little information as I want; and it’s FREE!
There are multiple ways to view the information, such as:
- As separate one way legs
- As a round trip package
- As a multi-city route
Want to see the absolute best savings on airfare available? Need to know what alternate flights are available at all local airports simultaneously? These options really allow you to see what your possibilities are.
Search Multiple Cities
You can pick the ‘nearby’ option, and Matrix will load a list of nearby airports with a checkbox option for each to be added if desired. Additionally you can simply type in a list of airport codes manually if you like. When the results are listed, all results for the airports you selected will be displayed in the same space, making evaluations easier.
Search Multiple Departure dates
Matrix offers multiple departure dates to be searched, allowing you to see every aspect of possible airlines, prices, and flights when you really want to see the best price or the best flight options.
The results are the best part, of course. Matrix makes it very easy to understand exactly what is going on with the flight possibilities. It lists all the flights and their prices. In these examples I am searching for round trip airfares, so the prices are listed as round trip possibilities.
In the image above, Matrix has filtered the flights as time bars on the departure screen. you can see that the cheapest airfare possibility for this event is currently $414 USD, over 8 possible flights out. The return flights can be seen after selecting the flight desired. Once selected, Matrix takes you to the returning flights, corresponding to the price you selected. However, you are still permitted to see and select ANY flight possibility you like. All the price possibilities are shown.
This allows you to know exactly what the price will be if you decide to take a later flight for example. It’s all calculated for you. All you have to do is pick the options that suit you best.
In the example above, selecting a much later flight returning to another airport will actually cost you more in this situation. Another great feature is the time bar context information. Each section of the time bar reflects the time at each portion of the trip, hovering your mouse over a particular section, such as the layover stripe, will display pertinent information such as the airport and the layover duration. Picking the beginning stripe gives flight information, departure city, departure and arrival times, etc. It’s brilliant.
In the image above I’ve filtered an international round-trip search as complete trips. Matrix displays these results in numerous pages of packaged outbound and inbound flights at the respective price.
Travel Sites use ITA Software
How good is this travel search engine? It’s possibly the best there is. The image below shows their clientele list. United, American, US Airways, Star Alliance are on the list as well as many others.
Did you ever wonder where the big name travel site get their data from? They are using ITA’s search engine as well.
Orbitz, Kayak, Vegas.com, Fly.com, HipMunk and others are all using this flight search data.
Did you see bing on there? Aren’t they in good with Microsoft?
Itinerary Details and How to Get That Great Deal
Once you have selected the flight combinations that you want, Matrix will show you the complete itinerary with a full price breakdown. Did you wonder where exactly does all that airfare money go?
Matrix shows every single fee. Here’s the sweet part. The booking codes are listed as well, which govern the fare costs and upgrade rules.
OnTheFly iPhone and Android App
Need to see the real time searches while you are on the go? ITA Software has an app for that.
OnTheFly is an app that gives you the same information, packaged in a convenient mobile app. It is simple to use, gives your up to the minute flight and airfare information, and it is FREE!
Stop by the Apple App Store or Google Play to get these:
Another great feature was the fact that the iPhone app gave me the phone number to Delta, who was listing the reduced fare I was after.
The app seems to refresh at intervals. The reason I think this is that the almighty booking code attached to one of the legs on my flight had changed since my original search. Delta could no longer offer the flight at that low price by the time that I called. ITA Software recommended refreshing the iPhone data after you call the airline. I think that is due to the sudden changes that can take place. I’ll chat about what I learned regarding booking codes and airfares soon. For now understand that the mobile apps should be refreshed a lot, and expect occasionally to get slightly outdated information.
Booking Flights and My Thoughts
I love all the information ITA Software is delivering. Will it continue past 2015? I have no idea, but for the time being, we can all get these great options right online for free. Here’s the link.
One thing that should be said is that ITA Software and Google will not book your flights for you. They simply display the aggregated information is the most informative and convenient manner. I will still book through my travel agent, or possibly Expedia since they have never let me down. However, I will definitely know exactly which flight is the best price at any date before I get there.