Most come ons for cheap tickets from airfare consolidators aren’t going to be real, or save you very much. But there actually are companies that can sell you tickets for less.
This is much common throughout the rest of the world than in the U.S.
And buying tickets abroad (for instance, buying a ticket for travel originating in Vietnam from an agent based in Vietnam as there may still be inventory restrictions on the lowest fares permitting locally sold tickets to access the lowest availability buckets while not permitting that on tickets issued in other countries).
There are also just cheaper places in the world to originate.
- A roundtrip business class ticket between New York JFK and Colombo, Sri Lanka will cost $5000 – $6000 (assuming you’re unwilling to fly Kuwaiti Airways)
- A roundtrip business class ticket between Colombo, Sri Lanka and New York JFK will cost ~ $1950 – $2150.
Same airlines, same seats and service, totally different pricing only because of which side of the world you started the trip on.
Nonetheless, there are also agencies that will offer negotiated rates on specific airlines for specific routes. These fares may not be upgradeable, or earn miles. But they can get you where you’re going comfortably if you’re willing to take the connections available.
Buyer Beware of Whom You’re Working With
Now, I have no problem with throwaway ticketing if a consumer is aware of the risks and how to handle them. But it was suggested that they were:
- Issuing tickets where consumers would throw away the first segment of an itinerary, which could cause itineraries to be cancelled or consumers to be asked to buy up to the ‘correct’ fare.
- Not telling customers they were doing this.
Most Consolidator Fares are on Non-U.S. Carriers
Wendy Perrin recommends one service in particular.
I recommend contacting Al Thomas of International Travel Systems, a boutique consolidator with a high level of personalized service. Al negotiates low fares with about 30 airlines that he selects for their aircraft comfort, service level, convenient schedules, and quick layover times.
..His business-class fares save you between 30% and 50%, depending on how far ahead you’re buying them and the time of year you’re flying. Business-class fares are relatively low over leisure-travel holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and Easter, and relatively high from September through November and March through May (which are the two peak times of year for business travel).
Generally consolidator fares are only going to be available on flights that would be expected not to fill up at higher prices. So peak travel times are going to be a problem. And last minute there could be plenty of availability (if seats aren’t selling) or no availability (if they are).
Do Your Research When You’re Serious, But It Takes Time
First you need to know how much your tickets should cost to even know if you’re getting a good deal through a consolidator.
Many airlines offer discounted advance purchase business class tickets (that may be nonrefundable) for around half the price of full fare business. [That’s why American Express Platinum 2-for-1 tickets aren’t always a good deal, you buy full fare and pay about what you’d pay otherwise … although often with greater flexibility in changes.]
Then you’re not just going to be able to search airfare online. You’ll usually submit an inquiry form with your trip details and then the agency will get back to you with a quite, which will vary in its timeliness from agency to agency.
They don’t quote real-time both because of the IT costs involved to do real-time searches of their specialized inventory but also because they would otherwise be undercutting full fare business class ticket sales. The idea here is like Priceline, to give additional business to a travel provider that they wouldn’t otherwise get by segmenting the market rather than undercutting the price they would sell travel for anyway.
Or just play around with things yourself:
- Consider flying to a different nearby destination besides the major business city you want to go to. Tickets into Brussels may be cheaper than Paris.
- Consider a throwaway ticket with a segment you do not want to use on the return, this can be especially great for Canadians who can add a segment back to the US and fly into a cheaper market (like New York vs. Toronto) while saving fuel surcharges in the process (since those tend to be lower with US destinations than Canadian ones.
Or…. ask yourself why you’re paying for international business class at all, instead of just using points.