Written By: Stephanie Knight, Content Writer , Sky Bird Travel and Tours
Maybe you’ve heard of fellow travel agents using airline consolidators, but you’ve never tried them out for yourself. By not utilizing this business, you’re doing yourself a great disservice. Whether you work from home, a small office, or a large agency, airline consolidators can give your business a boost. This article is part of a monthly series throughout 2018 that details how airline consolidators can put you at a greater advantage.
What is an airline consolidator?
Essentially, airline consolidators are the wholesalers of airline fares. Through their partnerships with airlines, the consolidators gain airfare at reduced prices or with a commission. These fares are then offered exclusively to travel agents who work with the consolidator. This relationship is especially beneficial for niche agents, but we’ll save that topic for a later article. Today is focused on how no matter the career track of a travel agent – home based, small office, large agency – they can benefit from pairing with an airline consolidator.
How home-based agents benefit from an airline consolidator
Being your own boss is both liberating and overwhelming. It’s a big job for one person (and kudos to you if you’re one of them)! With the flexibility of working from home comes great responsibility. There’s no one else your customers can turn to if their flight is cancelled, bad weather ruins itineraries, or any number of other issues come up. If this sounds familiar to you, it may be time to get a wingman. (Get it?)
First and foremost, airline consolidators give you a whole team of resources. Airline consolidators (at least the good ones) take measures to ensure members of their staff are multilingual. This can benefit travel agents of any ilk, but for a home-based agent, whose first language may not be English, this is particularly helpful. Multilingual agents often have a more in-depth knowledge of a particular destination, if it is their country of origin. Additionally, airlines don’t know individual agents. They do know airline consolidators. This gives the one-horse agent a powerful resource. An agent may not be able to acquire tickets but airline consolidators can negotiate deals.
Further, at-home agents can expand their customer base by utilizing an airline consolidator. For instance, a customer may wish to go on safari in Uganda but the travel agent isn’t familiar with what airfare is available or doesn’t have the best deals because their focus is on Kenya and Tanzania. Booking fares with an airline consolidator means the client isn’t forced to find their own airfare and the agent is able to earn a commission off the ticket.
Lastly, airline consolidators help home-based agents tackle a growing question: why should someone use a travel agent? It’s true that anyone can look up fares on Google, but these are published fares. The unpublished fares are just one of the many benefits that only a travel agent can provide. People use travel agents because they provide invaluable insight and expertise to ensure a trip goes smoothly. By utilizing the low fares an airline consolidator offers, agents pass on the savings to their clients, thus providing even more value to their services.
How small agencies can benefit from an airline consolidator
The single greatest advantage that small travel agencies can gain by working with airline consolidators is the use of global distribution systems (GDS) databases. While many smaller agencies utilize one or two global distribution systems, airline consolidators have access to all of them. Often, airlines will offer better deals on a particular GDS because it’s cheaper. A different airline may have a long-standing relationship with Sabre, for example, and as such favors that GDS when advertising their lowest fares. While this is good business practice for airlines, it means any travel agent who does not have access to that GDS is out of luck. Airline consolidators generally have access to all four GDS which means agents will have a better chance of finding a lower fare and keeping their clients happy.
In addition to having the access to all four GDS, airline consolidators often have the best deals on business and first class seats. For smaller agencies, selling tickets in seating classes that are typically more expensive means a greater profit for the agency. Plus, clients are more likely to upgrade to a better seating class if the price is right. When agencies use an airline consolidator, this will most definitely be the case.
How large travel agencies can benefit from airline consolidators
Like any good business, large travel agencies are successful because they have found a model that works for them. Maybe it’s luxury cruises to the Caribbean or multinational backpacking trips in Europe. Whatever the case may be, having popular vacation packages means those agencies will have specific airfare that’s in constant demand. Airline consolidators can help these larger agencies in two ways.
First, airlines may be reluctant to give up more than a certain number of seats at time. For example, an agent calls and requests 25 seats to Punta Cana. Under normal circumstances, the airline may only be willing to sell 20 seats in one go. Obviously, this is not beneficial to the agent if Punta Cana is a staple destination for them. However, that same airline may be willing to sell those extra five seats to a consolidator – particularly if they have a long-standing relationship. Thus a greater number of tickets will be available to the travel agent.
In addition to making more tickets available, airline consolidators can offer better deals on those same tickets. When airlines sell in bulk to airline consolidators, the fares are sometimes as much as 65% lower than what the airline is advertising. This huge discount allows agencies to pass the savings on to their clients while also marking up the fares as they see fit. Essentially, it’s a win-win for all involved.
No matter which career track you find yourself upon, travel agents of all types can benefit from the global distribution systems, the added resources, and the advantages of utilizing an airline consolidator.