Following on from Part 1 of How to Use ITA Matrix Like a Pro, let’s take our flight-searching and bargain-hunting skills to another level with Part 2, which will cover additional Advanced Controls and ITA Matrix PowerTools.
More Advanced Controls
Remember the extension codes we discussed in Part 1? Well, there are a few even more advanced ones worth going over.
Last time, we mainly discussed fare codes in the “Itinerary” section, specifically focusing the most commonly used ones: MINCONNECT, MAXCONNECT, and MAXDUR. We used these to specify the minimum connection time, maximum connection time, and maximum trip duration, respectively.
Now let’s talk about another section of extension codes, which pertain to the fare class (also known as a fare code or fare bucket) of specific airlines or alliances that we wish to fly.
Specifying a Fare Class
The examples provided by ITA Matrix are all useful, but let’s focus on the “F BC =” code, which allows you to search for one or several specific fare classes even within the same cabin.
For example, you might wish to book a specific fare code to optimize your Air Canada eUpgrades, or to ensure you earn 100% miles on your ticket when credited to a given frequent flyer program.
Let’s imagine that we wanted to specify an Air Canada “M” fare, which is the lowest Flex fare that doesn’t require a co-pay fee when using eUpgrades on an international booking.
To request a flight in a certain fare code, we simply enter “F BC=M” in the Extension Codes field.
The resulting search pulls up the Air Canada fare in the “M” booking class.
Marketing vs. Operating Airlines
Something else that the savvy traveller might care about is the marketing and operating airline for a given flight.
After all, in the world of transatlantic joint ventures, codeshares are a necessary and common occurrence. However, whether you’re aiming for airline elite status or simply trying to maximize your mileage earnings, you’ll notice that most loyalty programs have different earning rules depending who is marketing and who is operating the flight.
For example, under the Aeroplan loyalty program, tickets issued by Air Canada will eventually be subject to fare-based instead of distance-based points earning, which will result in lower points totals for most travellers.
If the flight is marketed by a partner airline, like Lufthansa, instead, even if it’s operated by Air Canada, you may come out ahead in terms of the number of Aeroplan points you earn.
To request a flight operated by an airline, we use the extension code “O:” followed by the airline’s two-letter IATA code. If we want a transatlantic flight operated by Air Canada, we would write “O:AC” in the routing code.
Now, if we also wanted to specify flights marketed by Lufthansa in order to avoid Air Canada’s new fare-based points earnings, we would input “O:AC” in the routing code and “AIRLINES LH” in the extension code, like below.
(Note: Entering “AC” as the routing code is not the same as entering “O:AC”. The former specifies a flight that’s operated by and marketed by Air Canada, while the latter only specifies the operating airline, allowing you to further specify the marketing airline in the extension codes.)
The resulting search pulls up the desired flight that’s operated by Air Canada but marketed by Lufthansa. Booking this flight on a Lufthansa-issued ticket would allow you to continue earning Aeroplan points based on distance flown, rather than based on the fare you paid under the new Aeroplan program.
As you can see, ITA Matrix’s advanced routing and extension codes are incredibly powerful and customizable.
I encourage you to visit the website and play around with all the advanced controls we’ve discussed, and maybe some that we haven’t, to get started building the itinerary of your dreams (or nightmares…)
ITA Matrix PowerTools
The final piece of software we’ll cover here is ITA Matrix PowerTools, an add-on to ITA Matrix that supercharges its capabilities even further. This requires a little more technical know-how than the previous items we’ve discussed, but still nothing too extreme.
There are a few different ways to install ITA Matrix PowerTools, and I recommend checking out the FlyerTalk thread for the full installation instructions.
Once PowerTools is installed, it should look something like this (for reference, this is on Google Chrome):
Navigate to matrix.itasoftware.com, and you’ll know that PowerTools is active when you see the “Passengers (1a)” bar the top left of the screen.
Note that PowerTools full functionality can only be found on the old interface. This old interface will eventually be removed from the ITA Matrix website, but hopefully the full functionality of PowerTools will eventually be incorporated into the new platform.
To get to the old interface, click on the link on the yellow banner on the main website.
Enter in all of the information as you would have otherwise done in the new interface.
To book an itinerary, simply begin your search using the guidelines outlined above and in Part 1. For this example, let’s search for a simple Toronto to London itinerary as a non-stop only:
Looking at the options, our traveller decides to go with Air Canada rather than the British Airways or American Airlines codeshare options. Even with a price difference, their Aeroplan Elite Status status will come in handy for both lounge access and eUpgrade potential.
Compared to before, the page with all fare information is looking considerably more filled out.
The entire right-hand side is powered by ITA Matrix PowerTools, showing the mileage, the cents-per-mile calculation, as well the list of booking options, each providing a direct booking link to the airline or OTA’s website.
There’s also a Where To Credit link underneath the booking links, which will bring you directly to the exact fare on the Where to Credit website, showing you how many miles you’ll earn when crediting this flight to all of the possible frequent flyer programs.
This is very useful for putting together mileage runs, or simply for figuring out how many redeemable miles you’ll be earning before you book.
Booking is as simple as it looks: clicking on your desired airline website’s or OTA’s link will bring up the corresponding booking page with all your fare options selected exactly as searched on ITA Matrix.
Let’s click on the Air Canada booking link, since it’s generally best to book directly with the airline whenever possible. Note that if you click the “+” sign next to Air Canada, there will be an option to choose a country from which you’d like to purchase the fare or to add a promo code, should you have any extra 15% off codes lying around.
This brings us to the booking link on the Air Canada website, as if we had searched directly on the website itself. Simply click through to complete the booking.
For the savvy traveller, ITA Matrix is one of the most all-encompassing tools out there for finding, understanding, and maximizing airfare, especially when combined with the ITA Matrix PowerTools browser extension.
While ITA Matrix’s searching and filtering functions and advanced routing codes are already extremely powerful, PowerTools takes things to the next level by offering additional insight into the fares you find, as well as allowing you to book directly with the airline or online travel agency of your choice.