Matrix (movie) - Red pill

Fuel Dumping and Matrix, ultimate introduction

Fuel Dumping and Matrix, ultimate introduction
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Last time I was writing about blogs with travel deals and error tariffs. This time I will dip you into fuel dumping. When I first heard about it, I knew it will be a big thing. And it was. So my question for you is: “Are you ready for the red pill?” There is no way back. Once you get yourself into fuel dumping, finding travel deals will never be the same.

What is a fuel dumping?

It is a method when airplane needs to get rid of a fuel in its tanks as soon as possible. Usually before emergency landing…

No, this is not a definition we are looking for. Actually fuel dumping is also a way how to get rid of the fuel surcharge in an airline ticket price. This fee should correlate with crude oil prices, but in reality airlines are using it just to inflate air ticket cost for a customer. Bigger the fuel surcharge is, the bigger chance the air ticket price can get a haircut. But before we do anything with this fee, we need to see it.

Bigger the fuel surcharge is, the bigger chance the air ticket price can get a haircut.

ITA Matrix

This Google-owned online tool will be a big help for you in the field of fuel dumping. First we need to find the fuel surcharge in the price. To see it, we need to decompose some random airline ticket. Go to ITA Matrix and fill the form. Let’s say from New York to London at any dates.

You can see this rectangle with the decomposition of the price after you click on the details of the airline ticket.

ITA Matrix with decomposed airline ticket
Detail of the air ticket price on ITA Matrix site. Base fare is Fare 1 and 2. YR is fuel surcharge.

We are looking at the ticket price with YR or YQ. That is the fuel surcharge. Bigger the surcharge is, better. Lower the base fare is, also better.

How to fuel dump

There are few ways how to lower the fuel surcharge (YR, YQ) and we can divide them into these groups:


3X or so called third strike is a way how to make YR lower. The trick is to add an additional route to the path which you will never fly, but it will miraculously lower the YR. This last part doesn’t need to be a path from the same airports. Not even the same countries. It should be some cheap route. For instance, you want to fly New York (JFK) to London (LHR) and you add Brussels (BRU) to Manchester (MAN). BRU-MAN is the 3X. Unfortunately, this is just an example. The real magic is to find the right 3X for your flight so the price of YR will go south. Fuel dumpers are sitting hours in front of their computers to find the right one. And it doesn’t end there. They exchange these routes like hockey cards. Read more to find out how.

Definition of open jaw ticket:
It is a round trip when you travel from airport A to airport B. And when you return, you fly from airport C to airport A. (A-B, C-A)

Definition of double open jaw ticket:
The same like open jaw, but all the airports are different. (A-B, C-D).

Open jaw shark selfie

Open Jaw and Double Open Jaw

3X sounds sexy, but sometimes the cheap tickets from travel blogs are composed by open jaw flights and no 3Xes. There is nothing bad about it. Let’s say you want to fly JFK-LHR, LHR-JFK but you find much cheaper flight JFK-LHR, MAN-JFK on Matrix. It’s not that hard to take a train from London to Manchester and you can see more of the Britain and save some money at air ticket too. (sorry just an example)

Flights with transfers

Most of the super cheap deals on travel blogs are actually flights, where you have at least one transfer and the layover is few hours.

Transfer flight substituted with different airliner

The price of YR can go down when you fly with some airline, let’s say British Airways (BA), and part of the flight is operated with partner airline f.e. American Airlines (AA). Sometimes one transfer is operated with partner airline or flying there is operated with airline 1 and flight back with arline 2.

Example 1

Flight from Prague to Johanesburg with transfer in Amsterdam and Paris for $510.
Way there: PRG – AMS, AMS – JNB (KLM)
Way back: JNB – CDG, CDG – PRG (Air France)

Flight from Prague to Jahanesburg and back (open jaw)
Flight from Prague to Jahanesburg and back

Example 2

My flight to Tokyo in 2012 for $270 with Alitalia.
Way there: BRU – FCO – NRT
Way back: NRT – FCO – BUD

BRU – FCO – NRT, NRT – FCO – BUD flight as shown at
Brussels to Tokyo and Tokyo to Budapest flight

Example 3

Prague to New York and back to Vienna for $360.
Way there: PRG – LHR, LHR – BOS (British Airways) BOS – JFK (American Airlines)
Way back: JFK – BOS, BOS – LHR, LHR – VIE (British Airways)

Prague to New York and back to Vienna
Prague to New York and back to Vienna

How to find cheap tickets by yourself

ITA Matrix isn’t a site where you can buy an air ticket and most of the time the prices differ from reality. Matrix is a good tool for you to learn and understand how to compose cheap flight routes. Then you have to try the combination at some OTA (online travel agency). If you find some very cheap combination on Matrix, it is highly probable that the ticket will be cheap at OTA site too.

Matrix is a good tool for you to learn and understand how to compose cheap flight routes.

Why search on Matrix and not at OTA site?

Matrix is a meta search engine. That means that from time to time it crawls the sites of the airlines and saves the data into its own database. When YOU search it, it uses its own results. That makes it faster than searching with OTAs. An OTA has to send a request to every airline before it shows you any results. Matrix operates above its database.

Searching flight at OTA website

Once you get familiar with how fuel dumping works and you find some cheap combinations on Matrix using 3X, 1X, open jaw and other tricks, you can try it in real life at some OTA site. Fares on Matrix are close to reality but are not confirmed flights with exact prices. It’s time to search your airline ticket / flight combination at online travel agency site. Every separate search takes longer, but you can be sure the flight exists and you can buy it.

Some OTAs:

What to do next?

As I said in the beginning, there are people which trade knowledge of routes like hockey cards. But they can’t publish them directly because when the trick is out, the party’s over. So they developed a language how to describe routes and show them on the forum. You can see how the routes are traded here:



Language of Fuel Dumpers

Code Description Code Description
3X You fly A-B, B-A and X-Y (the last one you don't need to fly) 1X The same as 3X only the X-Y is before A-B and you have to fly it.
5X More complicated flight like A-B, C-D, D-C, B-A, X-Y, or so-called 5th leg. C1 Some airport in North America.
C2 Europe C3 Asia
C4 South America C5 Africa
C6 Oceania C7 Antarctica (not that much used :) ).
n Label for north (f.e. C5n is north of Africa) s South (f.e. C2s means some airport in southern Europe).
e East (f.e. C1e means most of the time east coast of USA). w West (f.e. C2w could be some airport in England, France, Spain or Germany).
c Central (f.e. C2c could be Vaclav Havel Airport in Prague (PRG). .5 Means something between (f.e. C2.5 is some airport between C2 and C3)
OTA Abbreviation for Online travel agency (f.e. ITA ITA Matrix search engine
*A Star Alliance OW One World
ST SkyTeam Big Apple New York
sushi Japan bride / groom airliner
RT round-trip

Sometimes the codes don’t make any sense and you have to dig deeper for their meaning. Fuel dumpers are very creative. By the way here is the list of all airport codes.


First you need to find a route where are big fuel surcharge and preferably small base fare. These types of routes are the best candidates for a haircut. Then you have to try and try many combinations on Matrix to master it. There is no easy way. If fuel dumping was easy, everybody would do it and there would be no cheap tickets. Also when a cheap route is discovered and published on travel blogs, it dies very quickly.

And that’s it! You have my respect that you’ve read it here. I hope you got the idea about fuel dumping, Matrix and cheap airline tickets. I will be glad if you have some more knowledge about this and connect with me or share here your view.

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