I have long been a fan of Kayak for hunting down flight deals anytime we travel. They offer really nice interface to compare prices and find flight deals for destinations.
It looks like their search engine is actually powered by ITA Software’s Matrix engine. It also powers most of the major deal hunting websites such as Orbitz, CheapTickets, and lot of airline agents’ tools as well.
If you wanted to skip all the ads and additional promo’s built into these interfaces, you can directly go to the Matrix engine.
Matrix is no fancy pants and actually offers a no-frills interface to find flight deals. It is fast and gets you the fares almost instantly.
You enter your departing from and destination locations. Then you can enter exact dates or you can choose to see a calendar of lowest fares available. (best option to find the best deals)
Then you choose your length of stay and you get a flexibility of 7 days. You can start your search now or choose the More Options. Here you get to select the type of seats, number of stops, check seat availability, sales city, etc.
Once you hit go, it brings up a calendar (if you chose that option) of lowest fares with the lowest fares highlighted in Orange. You just hover over to see the number of nights and the date of return for that fare.
On the right of the calendar, you will see the airline with the lowest fare in Orange as well. Plus, you can filter the results by unchecking certain airlines if you have such preferences.
The interface may look bland but it has all the AJAX goodness that updates the data as you check and uncheck boxes on the fly. It worked blazing fast.
You can also click the Show Flights to see a listing of airlines and flights with timings. This view had a couple of interesting details for me. I could pull down the More Details link to see detailed flight timings. Also, it has an ‘Advisory’ section that warns you of overnight flights, long layovers, or even warnings like missing connection will lead to significant delays. I haven’t seen such information elsewhere.
Another surprising fact was that with international travels i have only been able to get good deals with a travel agent. In fact, I just bought the tickets from an agent for our upcoming travel and was surprised to see Matrix show me the same prices I got from an agent in the same airlines!
Next time around though, when I call my agent I have solid information of fares/itinerary available and compare the rates they offer. It is highly likely my agent uses the same Matrix software!
It looks like I couldn’t purchase directly from ITA’s software and I have option of calling my agent or the airlines to book the ticket!
Next time you fly, give ITA’s Matrix software a try before you jump on to other websites. You could have some solid information real fast without the bloat!