Despite the internal competition from Google Flights, the ITA Matrix is still a very popular tool for complicated flight searches. In the past few years, we have often feared that one day Google would just pull the plug, as they did with many other services. Fortunately, this has not happened so far, and, very surprisingly, the Matrix Airfare Search‘s version 5.0 is now available for testing.
Most of the familiar functions have been adopted from the old user interface. You can still see the availability for the next 30 days in a calendar, enter routing and extension codes and search from/to several places of departure or destinations.
But there are actually some new features:
- Select airports near your current location (location approval in the browser required)
- Dark Mode (apparently not working properly at the moment)
- Copy the result as JSON (to use it e.g. in our Go2 tool, hopefully soon)
- The new version should be faster
- Responsive web design for better usability, e.g. on a smartphone (but does not yet work perfectly)
Since the new version is currently still in the beta stage, errors can occur, but you can also report them or submit suggestions directly via Send Feedback.
However, the new development by Google is not entirely voluntary. In FlyerTalk, the user ITA Hacker, who is probably also one of the developers behind the ITA Matrix, presented version 5 and also gave a little glimpse behind the scenes:
For many years, we have maintained Matrix as an informal demonstration platform for the advanced features of our flight search technology – the same technology that underlies Google Flights and many airline websites. Unfortunately, the current Matrix website implementation relies on an internally deprecated web platform slated for retirement.
As a result, a band of dedicated Google “20% time” volunteers has been working to rewrite Matrix using newer web technologies like Angular, while aiming to preserve most of the existing functionality. […]User ITA Hacker in the FlyerTalk forum
Google employees are allowed to work 20% of their time (or every 5th day) freely on projects that do not have to be profitable. According to this, several employees have come together to update the matrix and hopefully prevent it from being decommissioned by Google.
How do you like the new look of the ITA Matrix? Feel free to leave a comment, but it’s best to give the developers direct feedback via Send Feedback (top right).