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Consolidator Travel Offers Big Savings on Air Fare

What is consolidator travel?

Consolidator airfare comes from major airlines and is usually for international travel. In general, flying with a consolidator ticket is the same as flying with a standard ticket, only 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. These savings are passed on to you, the consumer.

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 travel 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 Between Standard Travel and Consolidator Travel Air Tickets

There are a few differences between standard and consolidator travel 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 travel 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 travel tickets -- policies vary.

Four, there is usually no advance purchase requirement on consolidator travel 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 travel 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 travel 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 travel ticket and a retail ticket a small trade-off for the savings they enjoy with the consolidator travel ticket!

Make sure to find out the rules before you buy your ticket. Consolidator travel tickets (unlike many other inexpensive airline tickets) may be refundable with a penalty, be sure to ask. And when you fly with a consolidator travel ticket, you'll be able to get special meals and other benefits you wouldn't normally get with a higher priced ticket.

David Tinney, travel agent and author, received 43 free international tickets in 4 years. His bestselling guide "Why Not Fly Free: Untapped Strategies for Free Travel", describes how you can do the same.

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