Written By: Stephanie Knight, Content Writer – Sky Bird Travel & Tours
When it comes to booking itineraries, you might be neglecting a valuable resource: airline consolidators. They do more than provide low net fares for you and your clients. In fact, many airline consolidators can help you plan an itinerary from start to finish. It’s like having an extra employee – or ten. If you’re ready to give your business a boost, tune in to this monthly series on airline consolidation throughout 2018.
What is an airline consolidator?
At first glance, the term “airline consolidator” seems to indicate a company that might buy out smaller airlines to incorporate them into a larger airline. This is not the case. Airline consolidators are brokers that buy seats in bulk from airlines and in turn resell those tickets to travel agents for a discounted price. This service is valuable to both airlines and travel agents. The airlines receive greater exposure for flight routes, ticket options, and of course make a profit. The agent, and by proxy their clients, get lower airfare. In fact, agents who utilize an airline consolidator can sometimes get up to 60% off published fares for all seating classes.
Airline consolidators help with hard-to-reach destinations
When a client comes to you and asks for a dream vacation to Paris, it’s probably not much of a challenge. After all, France is the most visited nation in the world so the options for routes, hotels, car rentals, and activities are endless. But what if a client asks to go someplace off the beaten path? Someplace like Greenland. Recent trends in the travel industry, especially among Millennials, suggest that more and more travelers are requesting unconventional destinations. The younger demographics are seeking authentic and unique travel experiences and this can make your job difficult. Planning a cruise is one thing but what if clients want to take a weaving class with the Quechua in Peru? Or a cooking class in a Balinese family’s home? That’s where airline consolidators come in.
Researching fares to off-the-beaten-path destinations using conventional online search engines will only get you so far. The published prices may be too high for your clients’ budget. There may be no direct flights available. Airline consolidators offer a unique advantage in this situation: discounts, flexibility, and help with trip planning, especially for niche markets.
Airline consolidators provide discounts
Because of their special relationships with airlines, airline consolidators can offer discounts on fares. As mentioned above, fares are sometimes as much as 60% lower than what an agent would find online. Airfare is often the most expensive part of the trip, but that doesn’t have to be the case when you book with a consolidator. That flight to Greenland may not bust the budget after all!
Airline consolidators give you flexibility
Maybe your client insists on an evening flight, but the best price is in the morning. Using a consolidator can remedy this situation. They may have access to fares that no other agency has which provides travel agents with a larger pool of flight options. In fact, airline consolidators often buy up all of a particular class or purchase seats on a flight that will be in high demand. This gives you, the agent, more flexibility in scheduling because the consolidator may have exclusive tickets.
Airline consolidators can help plan your itineraries
It’s easy to think of landmarks that a client would want to see in Paris. But Greenland? Unless you specialize in arctic travel, you’re probably unfamiliar with what there is to see and do there. How can you provide a memorable trip for your client?
Ask a consolidator! They might just have agents standing by to help you out. For example, Sky Bird Travel & Tours has a tour division within the company. This means whether your clients want a pre-planned excursion or something totally customized, plotting their course is easier for you. The airline consolidator can provide agents with suggested activities and sightseeing so the agent doesn’t need to spend hours researching an unfamiliar destination. And if a client does want to fully customize their trip, agents can relay that information to the consolidator and work with them to develop the ideal itinerary.
Airline consolidators can help niche agents
Good business practice dictates that you should never turn down a sale and the travel industry is no exception. Niche agents, as the name suggests, have a particular skillset. In one regard, they are very knowledgeable about specific things: cruises, safaris, adventure travel, etc. However, being very knowledgeable about some things means you aren’t as savvy in other regards. Here are three scenarios in which a consolidator can help niche agents:
- Air contracts. You’ve booked the trip of a lifetime for a couple headed to South Africa. They seem extremely pleased with your ability to stick within in their budget, find pleasant lodging, and arrange a variety of excursions. There’s just one catch: you don’t have air contracts. Telling clients they must find their own airfare is not only awkward, it’s money lost! Why not get extra commissions on the airfare? Using a consolidator allows you to mark up airfare and prevents that unpleasant conversation with clients.
- Never say no. You specialize in African travel, but a client approaches you about taking a river cruise in China. You don’t want to turn away business, but booking Asian travel is not your forte. Working with an airline consolidator can help you secure business, even if it’s out of your travel-planning comfort zone.
- A travel partner. Instead of a guided sightseeing tour in the Serengeti, a client wants to visit a campsite in the middle of Ghana. Sure, you know how to plan African travel, but it’s impossible for you to know everything. Maybe the logistics of getting clients to this campsite are more complicated than the national parks. It’s time to phone your consolidator.
Airline consolidators can provide discounted fares, flexibility, and assistance mapping out the ideal itinerary. Niche agents especially can benefit from a consolidator and agents of all types can rest assured they won’t have to turn away business. Before you book your next client, put an airline consolidator to work for you!