Online Tools for Tracking a Low Airfare - Matrix 3.0

The Matrix 3.0 airfare search allows real-time queries.
Courtesy Matrix

Are you a fare watcher? 

Matrix 3.0 from ITA Software doesn't offer a fancy, eye-popping portal. In fact, it's rather understated. But Matrix 3.0 was rebuilt to run on Google technology, and it allows you access to the prices directly quoted from the airlines. Another key feature: it excludes the third-party providers.

By way of background, ITA is a company providing software support to major air carriers such as American, China Southern, DeltaHawaiian, Iberia, United, and others. It provides software services to online travel sites such as Kayak, Orbitz, and TravelZoo.com. Google acquired ITA in 2010 for $700 million. 

If you're a traveler with a flexible schedule, Matrix 3.0 might aid in booking an outbound flight, and then assist with a return flight booking at a future date when the cheapest fare is available. Most of us envy this level of freedom in travel, but that's beside the point. Matrix 3.0 will allow you to search the airlines serving your intended route for the cheapest day of return and the cheapest flight at that time. 

Matrix 3.0 Drawbacks

Matrix 3.0 has drawbacks that make it less than sleek in the eyes of some users. There is no alert feature, so you'll simply need to run searches continually until you find a fare that works. In this age of bells and whistles, many looking for ease of operation will find this a significant deficiency.

It's also not a place where you can buy airfares. The goal here is to arm travelers with actionable information so they can approach that airline with the best fare and make a bargain purchase.

Many budget travelers prefer accessing a service such as this through smart phones. Unfortunately, that is not a strength of Matrix 3.0. There was a mobile app version called "On the Fly," but it can no longer be downloaded, and if you have it on your phone, it won't function after December 2017. With these disadvantages aside, take a look at some of the benefits of Matrix 3.0.

Matrix 3.0 Features

There are filters for three key measurements: cost-per-mile, airport code searches, and date ranges. Depending upon the situation, these can be most useful to a budget travel search. 

Another major plus is the ability to search multiple airports. This is a huge advantage because budget travelers know fares can vary greatly between airports separated by only a few minutes of driving time. An alternative airport search can make a big difference in your bottom-line costs. Search for multiple airports by inserting as many codes as you wish into the boxes for departure or arrival.

Baseline searches such as those popping up on Matrix 3.0 arm you with one-way fares, allowing you to shop intelligently at your favorite search engine.

It's interesting to see how the leading carrier's average price compares with the overall average airfare. Much of this average hinges on the specific market share a given carrier enjoys.

Sometimes, when one airline dominates the market, it essentially sets the prices. Between New York and Chicago, for example, American Airlines is listed as the leading carrier, with about 16 percent of the market share. That's a strong number, given how many airlines are involved in the equation. But it isn't a dominating number, and the average price at this writing is actually a bit lower than the American Airlines average.

Another example: at the time of a search for air travel between Cincinnati and Salt Lake City, Delta had 61 percent of the market share, and the average price was nearly identical to the overall average for that route.

Your search results on Matrix 3.0 can be sorted by price, airline, duration of flight(s) or departure/arrival times. Advisory icons pop up for flights with unusually long layovers or overnight flights, which many travelers find less than appealing. In summary, you will have to be a bit more proactive with Matrix 3.0 than with some of the other online fare search tools. But people who use this tool regularly are quite loyal to it, and attest to multiple successes. It's certainly worth a try as you launch a new quest to fly at the cheapest price possible.

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