The Death of ITA Software’s Matrix1?

This is seriously inside baseball, but I had to share just to express my sadness and frustration. I used ITA Software‘s “Matrix 1” on Saturday. On Sunday it forwarded to their ‘new’ site, Matrix1 appears to be dead.

Most of you are asking, what in the world does that mean?

ITA Software is a company that handles the back end programming behind searching for airfare for several websites, both third party (like Orbitz) and airline sites. They search flights and pair those flights with fares, and the tools are really powerful although the most powerful search features aren’t offered on the consumer versions of their sites — since when you’re actually selling airfare you don’t want to offer complicated you want to offer simple, even though complicated can be more powerful.

ITA, which was purchased by Google, had a demonstration site online. They used it as a sales tool to show what they’re capable of, and it was available online for free use by consumers.

They don’t sell tickets, but they allow powerful searching. Find your flights on the ITA Matrix and then search for those flights segment by segment elsewhere for purchase.

The original ITA matrix was replaced by a more ‘modern’ interface, but was kept online and dubbed “Matrix 1.” ITA Software thinks the newer version is better, I disagreed, and I continued to use Matrix 1 rather than switching to the newer site.

The newer site:

  • Auto-completes airport names, which slows down the site
  • Doesn’t offer “weekend search” which was a powerful feature of the original site for coming up with the best time to take a weekend away at the lowest price

In fairness, the website says it offers an interactive calendar though I’ve never found it.

I did understand the old Matrix 1 would go away eventually. They stopped developing for it and didn’t want to invest in maintaining it. I just didn’t expect it to disappear over the weekend, and be left only with the new interface.

Interestingly, this weekend may have pointed me towards a change in my own online search and booking behavior. I found some flights I wanted on the old Matrix1 website. It was a very tight schedule, and one of the flights I needed was sold out in coach. ITA could put together some codeshares to get price down from $1100 to $500, but I couldn’t combine flights myself anywhere else — not on individual airline sites, not on Expedia, not on Orbitz.

Just as ITA was able to find the combination, so was Hipmunk, Hipmunk now offers similar functionality to ITA Software to specify expert flight parameters and specific flights. And once Hipmunk finds the flights, it’ll take you directly to those flights on a partner booking engine. So while I couldn’t make Orbitz find the flights myself, Hipmunk could. And so tickets were issued.

One step backwards for ITA Software, one incremental reason why it may be overtaken by Hipmunk from a consumer point of view, one less reason to have anti-trust concerns now that Google owns ITA.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. matrix1 is working fine for me at 7:49AM EST. Like you, I never use the new version. Thanks for the heads up though so I can be prepared!

  2. I gasped when I read the title of this article in my blog feed this morning. I’ve been using matrix1 for about 7 years, mostly because I just love the interface. I rarely use it to construct ‘crazy’ routings, but just like the layout, in particular the graphical flight selection with color coding. I guess it must be time to go check out this Hipmunk i’ve been reading so much about.

  3. I noticed that too this morning and was devastated–I was just using Matrix1 late last night and now it gone… 🙁

    Hopefully ITA will reconsider.

  4. I don’t think this is a step backwards for ITA, based on their current business model. They have positioned themselves in a business-to-business role, in which they offer their software to other businesses rather than the general public. The matrix sites that ITA operates are meant to be “demonstration projects,” rather than something that the general consumer uses. After all, they never made a dollar from anyone using the matrix site.

    Since Hipmunk (and Orbitz and Kayak, among others) is actually powered by ITA software, I’d actually consider their efforts to be quite successful–they’re making money on their product.

    Now from the airline nerd side, I agree with your overall sentiments. But this is hardly the death knell of ITA.

  5. Has anyone been able to make the alliance option work?

    I think it is supposed to be:

    / alliance star-alliance

    When I do this, it generates an error

  6. i was very sad to find out last night that matrix1 redirected to the new one while trying to piece together a flight with my girlfriend.
    i will try to utilize hipmunk in its absence as the ‘new’ matrix is a terrible interface and slow as can be.

  7. A sad day, and the death of ITA for me. Heavy use of scripting and their inane choice of preferred time intervals on the new site are killer items. Noon-6, for instance, is a useful interval for me. 2-5, not so much.

    Pray tell, how does one specify time-of-day searches with Hipmunk? What about itineraries with more than 3 stopovers? Alternate airports within a certain distance? International child fares? And ugh, the dreaded time-bar output format instead of nice, clean, neatly typed letters!

    I guess there’s Orbitz. At least until they mess it up.

  8. The new one is plenty good. The interactive calendar is done by choosing a starting date and entering the number of nights, so you can do a weekend search and a lot more. The calendar will display the lowest price for a trip each day of the month (if you have 3-5 nights, it will show lowest price for each of those from a selected departure date). If you tab out of the airport field quickly it won’t slow anything down, and even if you don’t, you don’t have to select anything. I’ve probably done a thousand searches on this, both on my iPhone using the full site and on my computer, and in my opinion, both are better than Matrix 1.

  9. Agree, very disappointing. I’m sure this is tough decision for firms like ITA, since they (probably legitimately) see what they’re doing as progress, while a lot of us feel differently. If there was a way to turn off the autocomplete, that would be a big plus for me.

  10. Yup. Discovered this today. Glad to see it is being reported on. Although I have used the new site for Biz class trips, I was more comfortable using the ‘classic’ site.

  11. so if you have never used one of these sites before and want to dive in now to learn them, which one would you say is best to start with?

  12. Why are all mileage run tools going away? Farecompare’s Flyertyalk tool disappeared a few days ago, now Matrix1!

  13. I don’t understand the Matrix2 haters. When I moved to Matrix 2, I found myself breezing through the interface much faster than on Matrix 1. Matrix2 knows what I want, whereas I had to spell it out in for Matrix1.

    Even with autocomplete, you can type the airport code and continue to tab to the next field and let it autocomplete in the background.

    Also, you can type “12/15/11” in the date fields and let it correct it to “2011.” Matrix1 didn’t like that.

    If killing Matrix1 can free up more resources for Matrix2, I’m all for it.

  14. I am saddened by the “death” of Matrix1. I usually work on constructing complex and convoluted routing and Matrix1 was able to do that with ease while giving me the actual lowest price. Matrix2 on the other hand struggled to give me the same price as Matrix1 and sometimes I have found the price discrepancy between the two to be quite significant.

    Also, I use my keyboard mostly to navigate with tabs and shift+tabs. When I want to make changes to my search I would use the backspace button, so when I want to see the calendar I would press it once, the search fields press it twice. This is where Matrix2 really lags behind Matrix1 in terms of responsiveness.

    I am with the disappointed boat here with this discontinuation of a tried and proven interface.

  15. The ITA matrix was the single best tool for me to plan trips with complex routes. I am very very disappointed that it’s gone, as there is nothing out there that comes near.

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