Travel agents have numerous choices of air consolidators to obtain lower airfares for their clients. Some may offer better airfares than others, but some companies are less than reputable. Travel agents have specific consolidators they have known to be trustworthy and offer lower airfares. Many international seats on flights would go unsold if not for travel agents selling the excess seats sold by consolidators at often much cheaper rates.
Since international airfares are regulated by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), there are different regulations than domestic tickets have. The United States Air Consolidator Association (USACA) sells consolidator tickets only through travel agents. This is a certification travel agents can look for to make sure they are selling from a reliable company, that adheres to regulations and are held accountable for their business practices.
Three Requirements to be a member of the USACA:
- Each member must transact at least $20 million annually in air consolidation with scheduled airlines.
- The consolidator must be incorporated in the United States for at least two years.
- The company has never filed bankruptcy or ceased operation.
Airline consolidators listed with USACA:
Besides these, travel agencies have lists of their own trusted consolidators they have used in the past with good results. Having several consolidators to choose from allows an agent the ability to shop for the best airfare and flight schedule, as well as the best commission or mark up capability. USACA offers a form for travel agents to submit online to several consolidators at once to shop for flights. USACA also sponsors the new Air Consolidators Specialist Course for travel agents, also found on their website.
Some consolidators have contracts with limited number of airlines, while others have several airline contracts. Other consolidators specialize in different geographic areas of the world. If an agent specializes in Asia travel, for example, it would be worthwhile to become familiar with a couple of consolidators that specialize in that area of the world. There are several tour operators that also sell air only as a consolidator, or offer lower airfares with a purchase of a hotel or car package.
Why should travel agents use consolidators?
- An agent can mark up the airfare.
- This offers the ability to pass on substantial savings to clients.
- Lower airfares can be obtained often for last minute trips for customers, when published airfares are often higher without advanced purchase.
- Sometimes length of stay can be longer with a consolidator ticket.
- Business and first class tickets are often available at significantly lower rates than published rates, giving the client the opportunity to fly in an upgraded seat for a lot less money.
The negatives of using consolidators may be:
- Often there are larger change penalties and non refundable, though many published airfares are as well.
- Consolidator purchased tickets are not added to specific airline revenue for the agency, which may have bearing on GDS segment sells, or contracted airline overrides between an airline and a travel agency.
- Sometimes customers cannot receive frequent flyer miles when using consolidator tickets.
- Agents may not be able to choose specific seating or ask specific airline questions, since the consolidator has control of the booking, instead of published airfare purchased at the travel agency.
- There may be an extra fee for the use of a credit card for payment.
Utilizing consolidators can be a great way to impress clients with lower airfares, particularly for international flights. This can also be a profitable tool for travel agents, making a winning situation for clients and travel agencies.