Search for Cheap Airfare Like a Pro: Part 3 – ITA Matrix Multi-City Search

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Are you ready to learn more advanced techniques to find cheap plane tickets with ITA Matrix?

We’ve talked about how to do basic airfare searches, and how to search by calendar, individual flights, and time bars

But if you need more than a simple Point A to Point B itinerary, you’ll want to learn how to use Multi-City Search.

Search For Cheap Airfare Like A Pro Part 3 ITA Matrix Multi City Search

Need a Complicated Route? ITA Matrix Can Do That!

Let’s look at ways to make your ITA Matrix searches even better!

Search for Cheap Airfare Like a Pro Index

1.   ITA Matrix Multi-City Searches

Link:   ITA Matrix

Suppose you want to fly from Point A to Point B to Point C, with a stopover at Point B.  Sure, you could search for flights from A to B, then search separate flights from B to C, but you might not get the best deal.

That’s because some fares (but NOT all) from Point A to Point C allow a stopover at an intermediate point for the same price.

By using ITA Matrix Multi-City search, you can build an itinerary with a stopover that suits you, and possibly save money!  And you can include more than 1 stopover.

To do a multi-city search, click the “Multi-City” tab at the top of the main airfare search screen.

Search For Cheap Airfare Like A Pro Part 3 ITA Matrix Multi City Search

Choose the “Multi-City” Tab to Start a Search From Point A to B to C and Beyond!

This will open a new search screen with options for 2 flights (A to B, then B to C).  If you want to add additional flights, click “Add Another Flight,” and you’ll be able to add more.

Most of the other functions of the search screen work the same was as detailed in the basic ITA Matrix post.

Note:   Some folks on FlyerTalk report that ITA Matrix has been acting glitchy recently, especially when searching for complicated itineraries.  If the site doesn’t work the 1st time you search, just try again.

Example:   New York to Frankfurt to New Delhi

If I wanted to fly from New York (any airport) to Frankfurt, stay in Frankfurt for 3 days, then fly onward to New Delhi, I’d fill in the search screen as follows.  Note that you can’t do a calendar search using the multi-city tool, but you can build in some flexibility by using the pull-down menus labeled “On This Day Only.”

Click “Search” once you’ve entered your cities and preferences.

Search For Cheap Airfare Like A Pro Part 3 ITA Matrix Multi City Search

Enter Your Cities, Dates, and Preferences, Then Click “Search”

You can display results as a complete trip, individual flights, or time bars.  Here’s the 1st page of 17 showing complete trip options.

Search For Cheap Airfare Like A Pro Part 3 ITA Matrix Multi City Search

A Partial List of Options for the Complete Trip (17 Pages in All!)

The cheapest fare for the full route is $967 on Virgin Atlantic and British Airways.

Search For Cheap Airfare Like A Pro Part 3 ITA Matrix Multi City Search

You’ll Have to Connect at London Heathrow, but the Cheapest Fare From New York to Frankfurt to Delhi Is $967

If you prefer, you can display the list as individual flights, and select your preferences for both the New York to Frankfurt, then Frankfurt to Delhi legs.  Choose a flight by clicking on the price.

Search For Cheap Airfare Like A Pro Part 3 ITA Matrix Multi City Search

You Can Pick Your Flights From Point A to Point B and Point B to Point C Separate From Each Other

In this case, I chose Virgin Atlantic and British Airways for the leg from New York to Frankfurt (via London), but my options for the next leg from Frankfurt to Delhi were much reduced!  This is because you can’t always combine fare rules from 1 airline with another.

Search For Cheap Airfare Like A Pro Part 3 ITA Matrix Multi City Search

The Choices for the Next Leg of the Trip Can Be Limited Depending on Fare Rules

And for those who are more visual, you can use the time bar feature to display flights in a graphical format.

Search For Cheap Airfare Like A Pro Part 3 ITA Matrix Multi City Search

Time Bars Give You a Better Picture of Flight and Layover Times

Once you’ve chosen your flights, you’ll be brought to the final screen with itinerary details and pricing.

Search For Cheap Airfare Like A Pro Part 3 ITA Matrix Multi City Search

You’ll Get the Exact Price, Fare Breakdown, and Itinerary on the Final Screen

Remember, you can NOT book your ticket using ITA Matrix.  You’ll need to use the airline website or travel agency site like Orbitz or Expedia.

Note:   Searching for open-jaws is allowed!  So if you flew from New York to Frankfurt, took a train to Munich, then wanted to fly from Munich to Delhi, you’d just enter Munich as the departure city on flight #2.

Example:   Los Angeles to Honolulu to Manila to Sydney

Let’s look at a more complicated routing.  On the main multi-city search screen, click “Add Another Flight” to expand the search to 3 flights, instead of the default two.

Search For Cheap Airfare Like A Pro Part 3 ITA Matrix Multi City Search

Adding Another Flight Opens a 3rd Flight Search Box

I searched for a flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu, a week later from Honolulu to Manila, and 5 days later from Manila to Sydney.

Search For Cheap Airfare Like A Pro Part 3 ITA Matrix Multi City Search

This Would Be Quite a Journey! Los Angeles – Honolulu – Manila – Sydney (With a Week-Long Rest in Honolulu, of Course!)

Longer and more complex itineraries take more time to search, so don’t be surprised if ITA Matrix takes a while to return results.

I searched for individual flights.  Here are some of the results from Los Angeles to Honolulu.  The price differences between airlines are astounding sometimes!

Search For Cheap Airfare Like A Pro Part 3 ITA Matrix Multi City Search

The Cheapest Option for the Whole Trip Starts With a Flight on Alaska Airlines or Hawaiian Air From Los Angeles to Honolulu

I chose the 1st option on Alaska Airlines.  The cheapest choice is on China Southern Airlines and Delta, but look at the routing!

You’d have to fly all the way back to Los Angeles, then to Guangzhou, then Manila (over 32 hours travel time in total).  I like Big Travel, not Exhausting Travel!

The cheapest non-stop flight is on Philippine Airlines, but that bumps the fare up to $2,762.  So I picked the cheapest, most direct connecting flight on United Airlines via Guam.  Now the fare is $1,951 total.

Search For Cheap Airfare Like A Pro Part 3 ITA Matrix Multi City Search

I’d Gladly Pay a Couple Hundred Dollars Extra to Avoid Backtracking to Los Angeles and Spending 32 Hours Traveling to Manila from Honolulu!

Finally, the Manila to Sydney leg has lots of choices.  There’s a direct flight on Philippine Airlines that keeps the fare at $1,951, so I chose that.

Search For Cheap Airfare Like A Pro Part 3 ITA Matrix Multi City Search

The Cheapest Option Is a Non-Stop Overnight Flight on Philippine Airlines From Manila to Sydney

Here’s the final screen, showing the full itinerary, flight details, and fare breakdown.  The total cost is ~$1,951.

Search For Cheap Airfare Like A Pro Part 3 ITA Matrix Multi City Search

I Got the Flights I Wanted and Not a Bad Price, Either

It can be challenging to book a complicated itinerary like this yourself, so remember, you can email the itinerary or bring a printout to a travel agent for help.

Note:   I always check individual 1-way flights to see if it’s cheaper to book that way.  In this case, separate 1-way trips were cheaper.  So you won’t always save money by booking a multi-city trip.

Bottom Line

ITA Matrix multi-city search is a great way to find airfares for more complicated itineraries.  And you can still use all the filters and tools available on basic 1-way or round-trip searches.

It can be challenging to book complicated fares on your own, so you might want the help of a travel agent once you’ve found an itinerary you want.

And always check individual 1-way flights in an itinerary to see if you can get a cheaper price by booking each leg of the trip separately.

Do you use ITA Matrix Multi-City Search?  Have you gotten good results?

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3 responses to “Search for Cheap Airfare Like a Pro: Part 3 – ITA Matrix Multi-City Search

  1. Can you use multi city to construct a ticket that doesn’t have layover/stopover? Say for instance I want to construct a ticket that covers a lot of miles on the way to the destination. I tried this once but it failed when booking on AA.com and the phone rep said it was because I used the multicity option.

  2. ITA Matrix is a really handy tool, but i have been having some issues actually finding the fares they describe. How can i book flights on mixed carriers? Ex, there was a multi-city trip i was looking up the other day and they suggested AA-US-AA and i was unable to find anywhere that could would give me those flights, let alone any flights on the carriers in the combination. Any ideas of where/how to actually book?

  3. @Carl – You could try the command “/maxconnect XX” where XX is the maximum connection time in the connection city (in minutes).

    @Byron – Did you try the multi-city search on an online travel agency website like Orbitz? Sometimes folks have trouble getting ITA Matrix itineraries to appear on airline websites. You could always take the search results to a travel agent, or ask for help on the Google ITA Matrix Help Forum (https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!forum/matrixandonthefly). Their technical support people seem quite responsive.