Matrix Airfare Search is more of a airline ticket search test/demo site than a full featured search and purchase site. However, that could all change now that Google decided to purchase ITA software, the company that runs the Matrix Airfare Search page. ITA Software supplies the search software to many major airlines and travel search sites including Google competitor Bing (Microsoft). You can’t purchase a ticket from the Matrix Airfare Search page and you can’t even click a link to buy the ticket from another site. You can get an idea of what the fares will be and then buy the ticket from a travel agent or another search site. The latest and greatest features in search should be available on this page because this is how they demonstrate their software to potential customers. Another feature that was available on the day I tried out the site was a list of sites that provide event information, tours, attractions, and dining. That may very well explain Googles interest in this site, because this type of software will allow others to easily compete with their local search capability. Do I recommend using this page to search for a flight or for something related to do in a particular destination. I don’t recommend using this site as your main source of information because you can’t actually buy a ticket here. You may want to use it as an additional resource to check out if you aren’t satisfied with your current travel search site. You may also want to use it just to see the related information available on the site. You not only see things to do at the destination, they also have links to the source pages for that information. For dining the site is using Open Table for reservations and for links to the resturaunts websites, it appears to be using Google Maps for attractions, and gets its data for events from Needle which doesn’t have a public facing search capability, just a commercial data service.
Update: The Google purchase of ITA Software is complete. In order to get past regulators they agreed to continue to run ITA Software much as it had been run for many years. If you want to use this search capability and actually buy the ticket once you have found the right flight, see the list of companies they provide search technology to at ITA Software‘s home page. I personally like Kayak.
Update: 1 Jan 2012. Want to keep up with what Google’s ITA is up to? Check out their blog at itasoftware.blogspot.com.
Update: 23 August 2012. I just created a post for a new Google Flight Search option – Google/Flights a new way to search for Airfares directly on the Google Site, and you can buy click a link to buy a ticket in the search results.
Update: 16 March 2015. Google Flights is now my go to flight search location. Google changed the link to the matrix airfare search – I’ve updated my link above, but I recommend using Google Flights. Also the ITA Software blog link I added in the January 2012 update now redirects to the Google Travel Blog.