It’s rare you hear somebody recommend Wikipedia as a formal source of information—well, publicly, at least—and especially not as a resource for travel planning. However, the web’s free encyclopedia offers detailed information on every major airport (and most minor ones) in the world. That info includes all the global destinations that can be reached directly from those airports and the airlines that can take you there. If you’re trying to map out optimal ways to use your frequent flier miles, this is especially pertinent.
In the meantime, the ITA Matrix software used by Google Flights rules when it comes to showing everywhere and anywhere in the world you can travel from a particular airport and for how much. With a click of a button (and a few tricks), you can populate an interactive destination map that shows you all your global options to help decide where to go next.
Together, Wikipedia and Google Flights are powerful travel planning tools if used properly. Here’s how to take advantage of both.
Wikipedia’s “Airlines and Destinations”
Every airport listed on Wikipedia includes a subheading, “Airlines and Destinations,” where you’ll discover which airlines serve the airport in question and which destinations can be reached directly from that airport. This may sound like elementary information, but it’s a great resource for those wanting to know nonstop flight options and possibilities for mileage redemptions.
Let’s clarify with some real-life examples. My nephew wants to tour the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi, and my sister wants to take him—ideally using miles. The closest airport to Oxford is Memphis International Airport (MEM). We live in South Florida, and my sister doesn’t do connecting flights.
I type in “Memphis airport” on Wikipedia’s home page. Once the page populates, I click on “Airlines and Destinations” from the Contents menu, which reveals a table with the airlines flying in and out of Memphis, plus all the cities with direct flights. To quickly find if there are any direct flights to/from Miami, I do a Control F Search for “Miami,” and I find that American Airlines/American Eagle and Frontier fly nonstop between Miami and Memphis. I do the same for “Fort Lauderdale” and see Allegiant Air will be the only option if she wants to fly from that city.
I now know there are three options I can present to her for cash tickets and only one for a possible points redemption—American Airlines—since the two other airlines don’t have loyalty programs. Next, I check AA’s website for mileage redemption rates and find them far superior to cash prices. I go a step further and explore mileage rates on AA through the program of oneworld partner airline British Airways. I find first-class tickets from Miami to Memphis for 15,000 British Airways Avios plus $5.60 in taxes (vs. cash price of ~$425) or economy-class tickets for 7,500 Avios plus $5.60 (vs. cash price of $200 plus on AA, Allegiant, or Frontier). I end up booking the first-class tickets.
As another example, a friend of mine has relocated to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, to work for the State Department. She’s already trying to plan weekend getaways but doesn’t know where she can get quickly and easily from this small capital city. A quick search for “Tegucigalpa airport“ redirects to the page for Comayagua International Airport, and we see that she’s limited to a half-dozen airlines that fly in/out of the airport. Her choices for travel are limited to other cities in Central America and a few U.S. cities.
Wikipedia typically has the most up-to-date information on seasonal and upcoming flight routes
Wikipedia can also give insight into which routes are seasonal and which are currently suspended. Even better, within the same “Airlines and Destinations” section, you can discover new routes as soon as they are announced and exactly when they are set to commence. On the flip side, you can see which flight routes will end and when.
For example, a quick search conducted in late August 2022 of Dallas–Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) reveals that American Airlines will start flying regularly to Bakersfield, California, in October 2022, Beijing, China, in March 2023, and seasonally to Auckland, New Zealand, in October 2022. The direct flight to Lima, Peru, will cease operations on November 3, 2022.
Because airlines often release mileage award seats on their new routes, this is valuable information to know. In fact, at the time of that search, economy tickets were widely available for 40,000 AA miles each way on the new route between Dallas and Auckland.
Using Google Flight’s ITA Matrix Software to the max
Matrix by ITA software powers Google Flights, where a simplified, user-friendly version of the software makes it easy for consumers to find the best fares. On Google Flights, you can type in your origin and destination and find the cheapest one-way, round-trip, and multi-city fares typically 330 days into the future. An interactive calendar allows you to explore date ranges and lowest fares by airport code, city, or nearby airport.
However, beyond searching specific flight routes, you can assess broader trip options and price them out with Google Flight’s interactive map. On the Google Flights home page, simply type your departure airport, but don’t fill in the arrival airport. Put in your desired dates and hit search. You will see where you can go during your desired dates and for how much. You can then filter by nonstop, airline, duration, and more. Move your mouse around the interactive map and discover destinations and prices across the globe. (Note: While almost every airline has been completely incorporated into the ITA software, Southwest Airlines and Allegiant Airlines have not, meaning that they will populate as options but tickets cannot be purchased directly through Google Flights.)
Let’s say you are based in New York City and want to go somewhere tropical and sunny for Valentine’s Day 2023 but don’t know where yet (and flight price is a factor you are considering). We enter February 10–14, 2023, from JFK and find plenty of options under $400, from St. Lucia to Miami to Providenciales, Turks & Caicos.
Maybe you also want to plan a trip to Europe this fall. You’ll go anywhere if the price is right and have total flexibility when it comes to dates at this point. Go for a broader search by typing in your departure airport, no arrival airport, and simply choose random dates within the next six months. Then on the right-hand-side below the dates field, click where it says, “Explore Destinations.”
This redirects to an interactive Google Flights map where you can explore flexible dates and date ranges (up to six months forward) and durations. Choose among a weekend trip, one week, or two weeks (though sometimes results add or subtract a day or two); then specify a month and voilà Google will reveal the cheapest options based on your search. For a search in late August for an approximately one-week trip in October 2022 from NYC, Google showed there was a round-trip flight to Oslo for as low as $333 and Barcelona for $435.
Barcelona is magical in October, so I clicked on Barcelona and saw the flight is round-trip on Iberia, nonstop leaving Monday, October 24, 2022, and returning Wednesday, November 2, 2022. Sold for $435!
By understanding and using the power of Google Flights and Wikipedia, you can figure out how to get where directly and cost-effectively and even map out trips around the world, connecting the dots in between. It may take a bit of practice, but soon you’ll find these are two of the most powerful travel planning tools available.