So you want to book a tier point run? ITA Matrix part 1

Paul tier point runs man in airport

Do I need to give an intro?! Many, many people have asked and commented….and so here it is – well half of it anyway!

A few things to bear in mind please 🙂

  • This is not a conclusive guide – it’s designed to help.
  • The fares and prices listed may not be available
  • This guide is aimed at Google Chrome browser for some instructions.  It will work with all popular browsers.

Today I am going to show you how to take a simple fare, optimise it for maximum tier point (TP) earnings, and hopefully book it.

So quickly, what is ITA Matrix?

ITA Matrix is simply put a very powerful piece of software to compare air fares on mass.  It was built by MIT scientists in the 90’s and acquired by Google around 2010.  It powers not only Google flights but other booking engines such as Kayak.

The Fare

Michele already pointed out the nice Dublin to Honolulu fare earlier this week starting at £1660 – but what is this fare? What are the conditions? What can you do? The first thing to do is to identify a date where the fare is available – Google flights is often the easiest and quickest way to do this.

So the fare… well at £1660 we have “AA/BA ILX8T8S4 DUB to HNL”. Put simply, an American Airlines or BA fare coded “ILX8T8S4” from Dublin to Honolulu. This has a base fare of £1322. This is the cost of the ticket without any taxes or carrier surcharges.

How do I know this?

Simple, go to matrix.itasoftware.com and tell ITA you want a point to point fare on oneworld.

Here are the AA (via Dallas) surcharges –

US September 11th Security Fee (AY)

£8.60

United States Immigration User Fee (XY)

£5.40

United States Customs User Fee (YC)

£4.30

United States APHIS Passenger Fee Passengers (XA)

£3.00

Ireland Passenger Charge (UP)

£11.50

Ireland Inspection Pre Clearance Charge (UQ)

£7.00

AA YR surcharge (YR)

£268.80

US International Arrival Tax (US)

£28.00

US Passenger Facility Charge (XF)

£3.40

And now BA (via London) –

US September 11th Security Fee (AY)

£8.60

United Kingdom Passenger Service Charge Departures (UB)

£48.44

United States Immigration User Fee (XY)

£5.40

United States Customs User Fee (YC)

£4.30

United States APHIS Passenger Fee Passengers (XA)

£3.00

US International Arrival Tax (US)

£28.00

Ireland Passenger Charge (UP)

£11.50

BA YQ surcharge (YQ)

£268.80

US Passenger Facility Charge (XF)

£3.40

Spot the difference? Thank you UK Government 🙂 – NOT!

It’s worth noting AA fares even routed the same way are usually very slightly cheaper.

So – we know the price and the breakdown of costs now – but what are the details and rules of the fare?

Once you have found the right dates and price you should end up with this:

Notice down the bottom the fare information and the rules hyperlink which you can click….Now once clicked you will see a lot of text.

What do you need to concentrate on in the fare information?

Category 3: Seasonal restrictions

  PERMITTED 27JUN THROUGH 04SEP OR 20NOV THROUGH 25NOV OR  19DEC THROUGH 31DEC FOR EACH TRANSATLANTIC SECTOR.

You have possibly the most useful piece of information there and it tells you more than you think. I can fly this fare between the dates above BUT I can also fly it for any year as it’s not specified…. The example above is in 2019.

Category 4: Flight restrictions

The flight restrictions is usually a long section detailing what carriers you can use and under what codeshares.

As I am looking at the AA fare now it states –

AND
THE FARE COMPONENT MUST INCLUDE TRAVEL VIA EACH
TRANSATLANTIC SECTOR ON
ONE OR MORE OF THE FOLLOWING
ANY AA FLIGHT OPERATED BY AA
ANY AA FLIGHT OPERATED BY BA
ANY AA FLIGHT OPERATED BY AY
ANY AA FLIGHT OPERATED BY IB.

So – any AA flight? Well, almost! Any AA coded flight that is operated by American, BA, Finnair (AY) or Iberia (IB). So a giveaway that routes like Helsinki – New York or Madrid to New York will likely work….

Category 6: Minimum stay requirements

ORIGINATING EUROPE –
TRAVEL FROM INBOUND TRANSATLANTIC SECTOR MUST COMMENCE
NO EARLIER THAN 6 DAYS AFTER DEPARTURE OF THE OUTBOUND
TRANSATLANTIC SECTOR
OR – TRAVEL FROM INBOUND TRANSATLANTIC SECTOR MUST
COMMENCE NO EARLIER THAN THE FIRST SUN AFTER
DEPARTURE OF THE OUTBOUND TRANSATLANTIC SECTOR.

I usually do a TP run as fast as I can! The above paragraph simply tells me I need a Saturday night stay somewhere after the TATL (Transatlantic crossing).

Now here is the most important part of the fare rules –

Category 9: Transfer restrictions

2 TRANSFERS PERMITTED IN EACH DIRECTION FREE

So instantly I can transfer twice on this fare along the way….

1 PERMITTED FREE BETWEEN AA AND VY IN BCN/ROM IN EACH
DIRECTION

This is less relevant – VY (Vueling) won’t earn you any TP!

2 PERMITTED FREE IN EUROPE IN EACH DIRECTION.

So I can change twice in Europe….

AND – 2 TRANSFERS PERMITTED IN EACH DIRECTION FREE

and twice in the USA.

1 FREE BETWEEN BA/IB AND B6 IN BOS/JFK IN EACH
DIRECTION
1 FREE BETWEEN AA/AY/BA/IB/US AND AS IN LAX/PDX/
SEA IN EACH DIRECTION
1 FREE BETWEEN AA/AY/BA/IB/US AND AM IN MEXICO
IN EACH DIRECTION
1 FREE BETWEEN AA/AY/BA/IB/US AND AC IN CANADA
IN EACH DIRECTION
1 FREE BETWEEN AA/AY/BA/IB/US AND HA IN HAWAII
IN EACH DIRECTION
2 FREE ON AA/AY/BA/IB/US ONLY IN EACH DIRECTION
FARE BREAK SURFACE SECTORS NOT PERMITTED AND
EMBEDDED SURFACE SECTORS PERMITTED ON THE FARE
COMPONENT.

So just to clarify – I have a fare from Dublin – Honolulu where I can transfer twice in Europe and twice in the USA. Now a few other things…. I know this fare has other conditions that will be covered in part two. This is the first part and hopefully easy to follow!

What is a transfer anyway? Well simply – a change in aircraft that involves being in the transfer point for less than 24 hours. Anything over 24 hours is a stopover and will likely increase your fare substantially.

So what can I turn this fare into? Well, Dublin – Dallas – Hawaii return is 560TP.

How about 1000TP?

Two transfers in Europe (London and Madrid) and two in the USA (New York and Los Angeles) turns this into a real TP run!

How did I get this? Easy –

Let’s do some quick optimising to get the most Avios with BA coded flights…. How? The easiest way is to select the BA option when presented with flights here:

This gives me a BA fare hence the slight price jump but will return thousands more Avios –

Booking your TP run!

So you have your TP run, and hopefully Google Chrome installed (add a bookmark into your browser as normal, and you should have the same results)…. here are two ways.

The first uses a website called BookWithMatrix.

It really is that simple (when it works!) – copy the entire ITA Fare page using select all (Ctrl+A) and paste into the website (Ctrl+V)

It will take about 30 seconds but should then present your fare with a few booking options at the bottom –

If I click the blue arrow next to “Book with Flight Network” I can select book with Priceline, and finally American.

If I select American it will send me to AA.com and allow me to book –

 

The second option for some more advanced options is to use ITA Powertools – put simply some complex JavaScript that runs in the background modifying ITA as you use it, as you will see below.

PowerTools Install

Open chrome and press the options button (the three dots under the X close button)

Head to Bookmarks and then Bookmark Manager then option button again to add a new bookmark –

You will get this popup hopefully:

Name? Whatever you want – I have mine called “ITA PowerTools”

The URL must be pasted from the below, exactly apart from dropping the surrounding double quotes.

"javascript:var scr=document.createElement('script');scr.src='https://rawgit.com/SteppoFF/ita-matrix-powertools/master/script_minified.js';document.body.appendChild(scr);"

And voila – you are ready!

Take your TP run you found earlier and whilst on the ITA page displaying it, open your new bookmark and your page will change showing this at the top –

Leave it alone unless you want to change the number of passengers. In which case click on passengers at the top left, change and confirm.

Scroll down and you will see some new links:

Now that gives you a lot of options – for the sake of ease and because we are looking at BA TP runs just press the second link – “Use American (Europe/Asia/Pacific)”

The JavaScript in the background will take your fare and send it into the American Airlines booking engine and hopefully, this will appear:

A TP run – on the AA site, priced and ready to book.

And remember – you can always pick up the phone to BA/AA to book if you can find a competent agent to help – these are not mistakes so nothing wrong with calling and going through the routing and fares line by line.

You can find Part 2 here where we will discuss more advanced ITA tips and how to really extract everything from a fare.

35 Comments on "So you want to book a tier point run? ITA Matrix part 1"

  1. This is as amazing as it is terryfing 😂

  2. Excellent. ….thanks…..think I need some time to get my head around it ! Problem is, who do I turn to for ‘help’ along the way !

  3. This is absolutely superb, but with my pea-sized brain I would be sure to make a mistake somewhere and not get the full benefit!

  4. Very good guide, thanks.

    It’s a shame you can’t see the TP values for each leg, or even search for flights by the amount of TP awarded.

    • I tend to estimate… Anything over 4 hours is usually 140TP in business. Always worth checking the BA TP calculator.

  5. Wow! I’m left wondering who has the time for this elaborate travel planning and then the time to execute the run!

    A wet weekend and a few stiff gins and I might give it a try. Perhaps not the gin on second thoughts, who knows where I might end up.

  6. Having used similar processes, ISTR that going through BookWithMatrix and Priceline ended up with the payment in USD, involving Forex fees. No biggie, but worth noting (if I’m right!).

  7. Great article. A question please. I have a direct Return booked to Santiago with BA in I class in a couple of weeks. After this flight I will be 200 points from retaining gold and so looking at how i can get some extra TPs
    I’ve looked at the Fare rules and have the following:
    STOPOVERS
    ORIGINATING UNITED KINGDOM – UNLIMITED STOPOVERS PERMITTED ON THE OUTBOUND AND ON THE INBOUND FARE COMPONENTS LIMITED TO 2 FREE AND UNLIMITED AT GBP 75.00 EACH. ORIGINATING SOUTH AMERICA SOUTH ATLANTIC AREA – UNLIMITED STOPOVERS PERMITTED ON THE OUTBOUND AND ON THE INBOUND FARE COMPONENTS LIMITED TO 2 FREE AND UNLIMITED AT USD 100.00 EACH.
    TRANSFERS
    UNLIMITED TRANSFERS PERMITTED IN EACH DIRECTION. FARE BREAK AND EMBEDDED SURFACE SECTORS NOT PERMITTED ON THE FARE COMPONENT. NOTE – TEXT BELOW NOT VALIDATED FOR AUTOPRICING. TRANSFERS LIMITTED TO THE ROUTING MAP INDICATED IN THE FARE RECORD

    Am I now able to call BA and change my flights to an indirect route to Santiago. I’ve looked at the applicable flights and there doesn’t seem to be any obvious restrictions.
    Could I go LHR – HEL – LHE -SCL for example or would i need to head int the direction of South America, either via the US or LATAM.
    Or, now its booked can i not change it?
    Sorry for the long question!

  8. I guess you’re at the mercy of the airlines for any changes/cancellations along the way…and then how on earth do you get back on track etc. ?

  9. Absolutely a phenomenal article well done I do have a couple of questions though, when I find the time I can email to where?

  10. Very useful article. Is there a quick way of finding flights that allow transfers?

  11. I’m having real issues trying to book a fare. BookwithITAMatrix doesn’t work and the Chrome bookmark loads the far into AA, but when I try and book it says the fare is not available. Any ideas?

    • What fare and dates Kiran?

      • 8th April DUB-EWR (7:30am-1:40pm) – I class (BA)
        12th April LGA-ORD (5:05pm-7:08pm) – T class (AA)
        18th April ORD-LHR (5:05pm-6:55am) – T class (AA)
        £1332 per passenger on the Matrix.

        Via BookwithMatrix, Priceline does not load the selected flights, just the route (and then suggests Star Alliance flights) and FlightNetwork loads at £1018.54pp but seems to only cover the DUB-LHR flight!

        The Chrom extensions, as mentioned load into AA (only the Euro version) but when proceeding through the options states that the fare is not available (I have just checked ITA matrix again today and they are still listed). Is this an occasion when calling the airline is the best option?

        • The issue is the LGA-ORD flight – to fit into the fare rules it books into Economy (H), not T class.
          I can send that fare to Priceline and AA successfully then 🙂 If you are still struggling yes by all means call BA – fare details for you –

          Fare 1: Carrier BA INX9T7S4 DUB to NYC (rules)
          Passenger type ADT, round trip fare, booking code J, I
          Covers DUB-LHR (Business), LHR-EWR (Business)
          £547.58
          Fare 2: Carrier BA TKX6C1S4 NYC to LON (rules)
          Passenger type ADT, round trip fare, booking code H, T
          Covers LGA-ORD (Economy), ORD-LHR (Premium economy)
          £464.02

          • Thanks – makes sense as AA likely don’t have a premium economy on short internal flights. One final question – how do you change that LGA-ORD flight to economy/H class? I can only find T class PremEco in the Matrix search (which as we’ve established are not valid) – there doesn’t seem to be a way to specify different classes for each flight.

          • f bc=h

          • f bc=h (for the LGA-ORD leg) comes up with no flights found if limiting to OneWorld or Virgin/Delta flights at >£5k if any airline. Are you leaving my original search the same and just added f bc=h to the LGA-ORD leg or is there another change you are making?

          • Try forcing the fare codes for I and T on the TATL and leave the fare bucket for LGA-ORD. set the cabin to cheapest possible.

  12. This is soooo cool but i can’t find any good deal from Krakow ;/

  13. This really is so helpful and well written. Many thanks. The trip that I want to book is only available through Flightnetwork but there are lots of negative reviews about them online. People talk nonsense sometimes though, of course. In your experience are they a reliable and legit. company?
    Thanks again,
    Martyn

  14. Unfortunately not, no – thank you for the reply.

  15. Great stuff. Only really an amateur at this but want to learn more. It would be really useful to get a copy of both articles that I could print more easily – without sidebars etc.

  16. Hi is it possible to find an europe tier point run? I’m going to Mykonos from Krakow in the middle of June for seven days but can not find any.

  17. Colin McCormqck | 18 November 2019 at 6:41 am | Reply

    Hi. As the Black Friday sales approach, are you planning an article with newly available TPRs? Originating in Europe is great but I am based in Jeddah … just in case you are tempted to do a one-off for here – more difficult since Qatar stopped flying here a while back

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