Tips And Advice Trips + Planning

How to Find Cheap Flights

December 20, 2015

Does the airfares in the market pinch your wallet during the year end period? Deals are out there, you just have to know how and where to find them. Here is my advise if you are searching for cheap airfares.

That’s right! You will have to understand and agree the fact that not every commercial airline that departs from an airport will have plane tickets for sale on internet travel and flight search engines.  Let’s say, you’re searching for a flight from Don Muang Airport, Bangkok (DMK) to Yangon, Myanmar (RGN), and you searched several travel search engines and didn’t know that Nok Air, a low-cost airline in Thailand actually flies to Myanmar almost everyday and probably with better fares from what you’ve found from the internet. But, how will you know about Nok Air and other carriers that fly to Yangon from Bangkok? That’s where you need to search for all the flights that departs from Don Muang Airport to Yangon and the most accurate information for this regard could only be retrieved from the Don Muang Airport website’s flight schedule section.

If you are serious about searching and traveling on cheaper airfares, you’ll want to learn how to use the ITA Matrix. It’s owned by the same company that runs Google Flights, but it’s much more intelligent and gives you many more search options. Many major commercial airlines use Global Distribution Systems (GDS) such as Amadeus, Sabre, Galileo, Worldspan and Abacus for reservations and ticketing, and these systems are integrated with ITA Matrix giving you real time results and data.

Note: You cannot buy a ticket using ITA Matrix. It’s only a search tool.

Let’s Try a Basic Search

A Simple Round-Trip Search Can Be Customized Exactly As You Want It!

A Simple Round-Trip Search Can Be Customized Exactly As You Want It!

Suppose I wanted to fly from Malé, Maldives to Colombo, Sri Lanka round-trip, departing on January 9, 2016, and returning on January 12, 2016.  I would enter Male or MLE in the “Departing From” field, Colombo or CMB in the “Destination” field, and click “Search Exact Dates” with the dates I wanted.

Notice when you search by exact dates, you’re also given the option to select preferred times (either for departure or arrival).  And if you have a little bit of flexibility in your travel, you can modify the search to include dates up to 2 days before or after your specified date. I left it as the exact dates with no preference as to time.

Then I selected the cheapest available cabin and no limit to the number of stops and extra stops. Then, I clicked “Search” in the bottom right corner.  The results page defaults to sorting by lowest prices 1st, with a summary at the top of the lowest fares for each airline, depending on number of stops.

Note: The prices shown include all taxes and fees.

ITA Matrix Will Automatically Show Flights by Price, Starting With the Cheapest

ITA Matrix Will Automatically Show Flights by Price, Starting With the Cheapest

There are 17 pages of results!  But if you look just above the 1st search result, there are pull-down tabs that allow you to narrow down your search based on price range, airline, departure & arrival time, trip duration, airports (for cities that have more than 1 airport), number of stops, and if there are any advisories for the trip (like a long layover or short connection).

That’s a lot of choices and Emirates is the cheapest! But suppose I only wanted to see flights on SriLankan Airlines because they operate about 5 flights a day from Colombo to Malé and I prefer returning from Colombo to Male’ on the 1.30pm flight.

What to Do When You Find the Flight You Want

Once you find the flight you want, click on the price to see more information about the flight.  You can also click the “Details” icon on the far right (which appears when you hover the mouse over a flight) to see more information without leaving the search page.

Click Price or Details to See More Information About the Flights You’re Interested In

Click Price or Details to See More Information About the Flights You’re Interested In

Click on the fare button and the next page shows a detailed fare construction, which you can print out and bring to a travel agent if you choose to book/issue a ticket that way.


I have circled in RED, the fare basis, a code which tells airline employees and travel agents the rules of a specific price. It’s a way to “name” a price and under that name, explain all the rules.

Think of it this way – if you have an airline and you want to advertise 20-30 different prices for a particular route, you would need to create some sort of a reference to each price so that people who deal with the ticket can look up that reference and understand what the rules are for advance purchase, changes, cancellations, child discounts, applicable seasons, days of the week, etc.

I have taken SriLankan Airlines as an example in the above scenario because they are the most frequent international airline to fly into Maldives and operates 4-5 flights per day between Malé and Colombo, making Colombo the most frequently visited destination for Maldivians.

What I learned about the fare

The fare for the itinerary I worked out is USD 217 and the fare basis is NAPX1MMV. I have gone through the fare rules and observed that the fare is only valid for SriLankan Airlines flight UL116 departing from Malé at 3.25pm and return valid on all SriLankan Airlines operated flights from Colombo to Malé, ticketing must be completed 2 days before departure from Malé, valid for minimum 2 days stay in Colombo, fare validity is 30 days from the day of departure from Malé. The fare rules also mentioned that this fare “USD 217 / NAPX1MMV” is valid for sales until January 10, 2016 and the last day to travel out of Male’ would be January 31, 2016.

Bottom line

Now do a search for your real travel requirements, take a snapshot or print of the itinerary along with the fare construction to your local airline office or travel agent and tell them to issue or book your air-ticket on the fare basis as per the fare construction. Please read the fare rules, it gives all the information on refund, no-show and change fees, etc.,

Do you use ITA Matrix?  What do you like about it?

You Might Also Like


  • Reply Hassan December 20, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    Thanks for this useful information!! ☺

  • Reply Mohammad Sirajum Munir November 19, 2017 at 11:28 am

    I am the group of “fly-if-the-price-is-good” as we are 3 family members we like to travel at average once in a year.I think specially in Maldives its very very expensive air flight.
    If we like to travel and we decide it at least 6 months before.So for flight and hotel booking its very affordable for us.To have a cheap flight it always better to book at least 3 months before.Also look for special air fare where you will get 30%-50% less than regular air fare.I am Bangladeshi so i try to travel from India to third country because almost half price always.There are some online travel agent also offer very cheap flight.For world wide is the best who offer cheap flight and from India, also offer very cheap flight from India to any other part of the world.

  • Leave a Reply

    Powered by