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Things to know about getting discount airline tickets

Things to know about getting discount airline tickets
Consolidator travel - what is it?

One of the best, if not the best, way to get discount airline tickets is by purchasing consolidator tickets via your travel agent. These are most likely the cheapest airfares available whether you plan your trip a month ahead or if you are seeking a last minute airfare.

A consolidator airfare come from major airlines and is usually for international travel. There is no real difference between standard airline tickets and a consolidator ticket in terms of the feel of your flight, only consolidator tickets are most likely the cheapest and the best discount airfare you can avail yourself of.

Some people think they can get the cheapest flights if they wait for last minute airfares, 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 discount airline tickets 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 discount price, or even to find any available space at all, at the last minute.

If a plane leaves the gate with any empty seats, it translates into lost revenue for the airline. A consolidator must take care of the expense of the marketing costs of the "cheap seats", that is why airlines can afford to sell tickets to the consolidators at such discounted prices.

Using a consolidator travel ticket, you can save between 10 and 70% or more off the airlines' published retail airfares. During airfare sales, you may be able to get discount airline tickets with a published fare, but that is not the normal case, particularly in spring and summer season.

Consolidator tickets usually do not impose all the restrictions that airlines have on advanced purchase airfares. 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.

There are a few differences between standard and consolidator airline tickets which you should know about:

  1. You will not find the price printed on the ticket, as most airlines don't want you to know how cheap they are willing to sell their tickets!
  2. If there are any changes in your travel plans and wish to change flights or if 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, although if the airline cancels your flight, they are bound by law to accommodate you to another flight.
  3. Sometimes you won't get frequent flier miles when flying with consolidator travel tickets -- policies vary.
  4. When you purchase your consolidator airline ticket, there is usually no advance purchase requirement, whereas practically all retail airfares will require a 7, 14 or 21 day advance purchase.
  5. You cannot purchase a consolidator ticket direct from an airline, you can only purchase it via a travel agency that sells consolidator air tickets.
  6. Many consolidator travel tickets can be cancelled after purchase but before the travel date. It may have a stiff penalty though. That's still better than the airline's retail airfares, once purchased, you cannot cancel theirs.
  7. 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. The cheap flights you can enjoy with consolidator travel tickets (unlike many other discount airline tickets) may be refundable with a penalty, be sure to ask.