The Airlines Best Kept Secret

by David Tinney

Consolidator tickets are the airline's best kept secret! Have you ever seen an airline advertise "consolidator fares"? Here's why you haven't.

They are airline tickets on major airlines and are usually for international travel. In general, flying with consolidator tickets is the same as flying with standard tickets, but much less expensive. This is possible because consolidators commit to buying a certain dollar volume of tickets from the airlines, and are therefore given low, contract rates by the airlines. These savings are passed on to you, the consumer.David Tinney sells consolidator airline tickets

Some people think they can get a cheaper ticket if they wait until the last minute, when "airlines sell off blocks of unsold seats cheaply to consolidators, who sell them for whatever they can get". This is not true. Airlines and agencies don't really work that way. It is sometimes possible to get a cheap ticket on very short notice, but you rarely get a cheaper ticket than if you had planned ahead, and it may be impossible to get a reasonable price, or even to find any available space at all, at the last minute.

The airlines' historical figures for any given flight indicate that a certain percent of the seats will be empty. By "selling" those seats to consolidators, the airlines increase the odds of that flight being full.

Once the plane leaves the gate with any empty seats, it is lost revenue for the airline. The consolidators bear the burden and expense of the marketing costs of the "cheap seats", that is why the airlines' can afford to sell them to the consolidators at such deep discounts.

Using a consolidator ticket, you can save between 10% - 70% or more off the airlines' published retail fares. During airfare sales, you may be able to get a cheaper ticket with a published fare, but that is not the normal case, particulary in spring and summer season.

Consolidator tickets usually do not impose all the restrictions that airlines have on advanced purchase fares. For example, you can fly into one city and depart from another. Saturday night stays are not always required, and your trip can last for more than 30 days.

Seven Differences of Consolidator Air Tickets

There are a few differences between standard and consolidator tickets which you should know about:

One, no prices will be printed on the ticket. Airlines don't want you to know how cheap they are willing to sell their tickets!

Two, if you change your plans and wish to change flights, or have your ticket endorsed and transferred to use on another airline, you may not be able to. Most airlines will not accept consolidator tickets issued on other airlines. However, if the airline cancels your flight, they are bound by law to accommadate you to another flight.

Three, sometimes you won't get frequent flier miles when flying with consolidator tickets -- policies vary.

Four, there is usually no advance purchase requirement on consolidator tickets, whereas practically all retail published fares will require a 7, 14 or 21 day advance purchase.

Five, you cannot purchase a consolidator ticket direct from an airline, you can only purchase it from a travel agency that sells consolidator air tickets.

Six, many consolidator tickets can be canceled after purchase but before the travel date. It may have a stiff penalty though. That's still better than the airline's retail fares, once purchased, you CANNOT cancel theirs.

Seven, Consolidator tickets have an entirely different set of restrictions. There are usually no advance purchase requirements, may be refundable with penalty, usually a different penalty amount for changes are a few of the differences.

Most people consider the differences between a consolidator ticket and a retail ticket a small trade-off for the savings they enjoy with the consolidator ticket!

Make sure to find out the rules before you buy your ticket. Consolidator tickets (unlike many other inexpensive airline tickets) may be refundable with a penalty, be sure to ask. And when you fly with a consolidator ticket, you'll be able to get special meals and other benefits you would normally get with a higher priced ticket.

David Tinney, an expert in the travel industry, is the owner of Adventure Travel Service and author of the best selling e-guide, Why Not Fly Free?

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