Never the air travel industry has been more active, with airlines, travel agents, airline ticket consolidators and ticket brokers all competing aggressively for passengers. For the consumer this means a real opportunity for savings. Airline ticket consolidators can be a source for discount tickets, at times offering savings over tickets purchased directly from the airlines. However, experience has shown that consolidators do not always save you money. As with most bargains, there are trade-offs and risks involved with the discounted price.
A ticket consolidator is an airline ticket wholesaler who obtains fares far below published tariffs from airlines in exchange for making volume sales commitments. Airlines sell discounted tickets to consolidators because of the volume of tickets they are able to sell and because the seats would often otherwise go empty. As a result, consolidators can resell tickets to travel agents, ticket brokers, and to consumers at prices which are often below the airlines' prices, while still earning a profit.
It's difficult to determine how many consolidators are currently in business and how long many of them have been operating. It is clear however from the increasing number of advertisements that the industry is expanding. Although most consolidators sell both to agencies and directly to consumers, there are several large consolidators that are exclusively wholesalers and sell tickets only to retail travel agencies.
The consolidator industry is for the most part unregulated. Although they do not function in a regulatory capacity, the airlines which have contracts with individual consolidators set financial requirements and business practice standards which the consolidator must meet as a condition of the contract.
A traveler can often save money buying a ticket from a ticket consolidators r, with the savings being greater on international travel than domestic routes. However, with such intense competition among the airlines for passengers, including some airlines which specialize in discount fares without an advance purchase requirement, you can no longer assume that the consolidator fare will be the cheapest. Also, because there are now so many ticket brokers offering discount tickets purchased from consolidators, the savings among different consolidators varies greatly. In other words, it pays to shop around.
Savings with ticket consolidators will fluctuate depending upon competitive factors in the market, how flexible you are with your travel dates, whether travel is during a busy season, whether you prefer to travel on an airline familiar to you and how much time you have to shop for the lowest fare.
As with most money saving opportunities, there are risks and trade-offs associated with these savings. These risks include:
a consolidator with an unreliable record;
advertised fares which are not available;
seats which are not confirmed;
credit cards are not accepted, or there is a credit card surcharge;
high cancellation penalties and difficulty making changes.