Most of us have heard about the tremendous amounts of savings that consolidators can pass on to us. It is a true fact that the airlines sell tickets in bulk to groups called consolidators who then sell it to individuals or travel agents. An individual traveler may save thousands of dollars on each ticket especially if they are flying to international destinations.
However, there are various pitfalls that we need to be aware of when buying tickets from consolidators. Here is a list of cautions that can help you enjoy your journey a little bit more:
Know thy sites
Always know if the site is trustworthy. Websites could be fly-by-the-night operations. They may exist one day, gone the next. So use only sites that have good reputations, recommended by others and have offices and telephone numbers you can contact easily in case you need to.
Look at fraud in the eye – Credit card fraud is most prevalent on the internet, so beware of using your credit card numbers when making a transaction. Use Virtual (Perishable) credit card numbers instead. Virtual credit card numbers are given by credit card companies such as Citi-Card that will have temporary numbers which are valid only for a month. So it’s easier to catch a thief if they use these numbers since we can narrow down the times when we used the card.
Debit Card risks – Using a credit card, however, is safer than using a Debit card in these situations. If you need the money back for some reason, a credit card company is mandated by Federal laws (in the United States) to return the money to you if the request is made within 60 days of the purchase. Of course, if you do that regularly, your credit score may go down. So do not abuse this right.
Domestic Savings – It may be a better option to buy domestic flights from the carriers or airlines themselves (at their websites) since the competition in the domestic sector makes it impossible to give huge discounts to consolidators. So the tickets from consolidator sites and travel agents for domestic travel will probably be in the same range. If consolidators also throw in bargain accommodation, car rentals or a combination of domestic and international flights, then that may be a wise option.
When we plan to travel, there are many things that could go wrong. We could get sick, someone in our family may need our help, our office may need us for a few extra days, the weather may not cooperate, your car may break down on the way to the airport, etc. In such cases, we may have to miss the flight that we were supposed to catch. If you buy from online consolidators, it may be tough to get hold of them and they may not be able to transfer you to the next flight as easily as if the airline had booked it for you.
Of course, most airlines are gracious enough to help most flyers, but if a flight gets canceled, the airline can only get a fewer number of passengers on the next flight. In such instances, it may be wise to have the airline on your side, although you may have had to pay a little extra. Being a frequent traveler also helps. By law, passengers in the US are required to get seats in future flights if a flight is canceled, but getting the next flight may be a problem if the flight is already at full capacity.
Travel Agent to the rescue
Currently, with all the advances in technology, we are tempted to do it all by ourselves. And usually, if nothing goes wrong, we have saved ourselves a few bucks just by doing the legwork (or mouse work) on finding good deals. However, as Murphy ’s Law says, “If anything can go wrong, it will”.
You’d better have a hand holding you from being thrown into the ocean of problems. An experienced travel agent can help you through tough times. One call, that’s all.
Hopefully, you have established a relationship (and earned them enough commission) to encourage them to give you excellent services. The longer the trip, the more important it is to get a TA.
Once, on our trip, I checked the Delta return flight from a foreign country and found that the flight had been canceled! As there were no Delta travel agents in our part of the country, all I had to do was to send an email to my travel agent in the US who sorted it all out and sent me the details on my next connection within minutes! I didn’t have to do a thing! TAs also know the best deals in all types of packages. They know which new airlines are eager to get passengers and who serve them royally, they know which airline connections save the most time or allow you to see the city in a day, they are also aware of the problems in certain airports and cities that are best to avoid.
Points to Ponder
No prices on ticket – Consolidator tickets may not have prices printed on the ticket. The term “BT” may appear instead.
Frequent flyer miles – These may not be available for consolidator tickets. The added savings may make up for lack of fringe benefits.
Advantages – Consolidator tickets may be bought until the last minute. Also, they may be returned before the flight with fewer penalties than if you buy tickets from retailers. You may not know which airline you are going to use and will certainly not be able to assign seats therefore until this information is given to you by the consolidators. So your choices are limited in this sense. The later those tickets are given to you, the worse the seats usually end up to be. Once we traveled on a 16-hour flight right next to the lavatory area. That was my worst travel experience.
As you can see, consolidators do save you a bundle, but the consumer needs to be aware of the problems and difficulties associated with bulk tickets and dealing with online websites before booking that wonderful trip around the world!