Written By: Brianna Kilroy, Copywriter – Sky Bird Travel & Tours
There are scads of ways people can book a trip, increasing the competition travel agents face acquiring clients in an already competitive industry. That being said, an airline consolidator can serve as a valuable asset to a travel agent.
What is an airline consolidator?
Airline consolidators purchase airline tickets in bulk and resell them to travel agents at net fare prices. Travel agents who book flights through an airline consolidator get access to said prices, which can be 45%-60% off published fares. This means exclusive savings for the travel agent and more control over the amount of commission they make when setting a price for their clients. The drastic price difference between net and published fares gives the travel agent room to sell airfare to their clients at a discounted price, and still make a good commission for themselves.
While it is important travel agents are aware of airline consolidators as a resource, it is equally important they understand misconceptions of the industry so as to not miss out on an opportunity to earn higher commissions while benefitting their clients with low airfare.
Airline Consolidators Have Restrictive Terms and Conditions.
Airline consolidators once functioned under a difficult system with restrictions preventing travelers from reaping benefits beyond low airfare. Passengers could not use frequent flyer miles on flights booked through a consolidator, which provoked questioning whether or not they were really saving money on flights. Additionally, ticket changes were forbidden post-booking or, at the very least, the consolidator charged an off-putting amount of money to do so. When unpredictable cancellations took place or a departure time needed adjustment because of another flight’s delayed arrival, affected ticket-holders were out of luck.
Travelers who book through a consolidator today can use frequent flyer miles or travel rewards. There is also more flexibility when it comes to planning itineraries, freeing clients from the task of planning their vacation to fit the consolidator’s schedule.
Airline Consolidators Are Unreachable.
In the early days of airline consolidation, travel agents didn’t have access to local offices and face-to-face communication with the consolidator they were working with. To top it off, customer support operated within a limited time window, so agents were unlikely able to execute damage control with the airline consolidator when flights were cancelled or altered.
These days, the industry recognizes the link between “quality of product” and “quality of customer service.” Quality customer service is accessible and available, either by phone or in person. Good airline consolidation firms are equipped with agents who are available 24/7 to help with unpredictable itinerary changes or inquiries, even mid-vacation.
Airline Consolidators Don’t Speak English.
Initially, net fares were marketed toward visiting friends and relatives (VFR travel), and designed for travelers and agents who didn’t speak English. This resulted in communication glitches between the consolidator and travel agent when attempting to comprehend details for something as complicated as booking specific flights. Opportunities for incorrect booking and understanding limitations are plentiful when communicating through a language barrier, resulting in frustration within both parties.
Today, the travel industry is intent on hiring multi-lingual employees, and airline consolidators are no exception. Present travel agents can rest easy knowing they are able to speak with a consolidator in their native language and keep any misunderstandings at an all-time low.
Airline Consolidators Charge Penalties for Ticket or Itinerary Changes.
If a family’s flight to the Philippines was cancelled due to bad weather, they couldn’t hope to remedy the issue without paying large changing fees. If they wanted to cancel altogether, they would have to accept that their tickets are non-refundable. Neither option was good and lends an understanding to why airline consolidators had a bad reputation in the past.
Now, if a family’s flight to the Philippines is cancelled due to bad weather, they can turn to their travel agent to mitigate the situation. A travel agent who booked the trip through an airline consolidator benefits by being able to reach out to the consolidator and review alternative flights that allow the family to continue their vacation with little interruption and no massive fees. Airline consolidators can even aid in adjusting itineraries to fit present circumstances. Note that, while the consolidator doesn’t charge changing fees, some airlines do. Your consolidator can help navigate which airlines have pricey change penalties.
Airline Consolidators Have Limited Options.
Because they didn’t offer the option to choose specific seating and had limited flights available, airline consolidators were notorious for giving people few choices when considering destinations. The industry has come a long way since then and airline consolidators prove to be a valuable tool that brings more opportunities to the table.
Consolidators are experts in the travel industry, and they use their savvy to help travel agents design itineraries by suggesting places of interest and, possibly, accessing discounted tickets.
Airline Consolidators Don’t Offer Great Discounts.
Some assume there is not a large difference between net and published fares. This might be because travel agents are unable to view net and published fares side-by-side to get a true glimpse of what they can earn through a consolidator. Airline consolidators serve as a resource that allows travel agents to compare fares among different airlines; which, as stated before, can be up to 65% off. Even savings on the lower end can be hundreds of dollars, so it is always an advantage to check and compare.
Working with airline consolidators in the past presented issues that resulted in misconceptions rolling over to today’s industry; however, present airline consolidation companies overturned those misconceptions as the industry evolved. They no longer operate under restrictive terms and conditions, they have on-call personnel and accessible office locations, they employ multilingual agents, they provide flexibility for flight or itinerary changes, they offer more flights during booking, and they help travel agents earn higher commission. Airline consolidators can be a valuable resource for airlines, travel agents, and those traveling. Understanding common misconceptions is advantageous to not missing out on the benefits of using an airline consolidator today.