The difference between finding cheap domestic and cheap international air tickets


While in the US domestic aviation is much more volatile (ie, prices change much more often), the price difference between major travel destinations such as Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia and airline sites is often no more than 10-20%. Domestic ticket vendors largely fall into 2 categories: (1) airlines and (2) online travel agents. There are several specialized players, but they serve a very small market. Therefore, when shopping for home tickets, "when to buy" is usually more important than "where to buy".

The opposite is true in securing an international agreement on air services. "When to buy" is still important (as if you don't wait for the last minute), but "where to buy" is more important. This is because tickets to Europe, Asia, Africa and South and Central America are somewhat less volatile (they do not need to change as often), but the price difference between different vendors can be up to 50% or more. There are several reasons for this, but the two main reasons are (1) the type of fare offered and (2) the number of field players.

Type of fare

Without being very technical, there are basically two types of international tickets; published and unpublished. In the domestic market is published 97% of fare in leisure. Published fares that can be described as retail fares. The airline creates a fare and rules associated with that fare and then publishes information through a clearing house called ATPCo (Airline Tariff Publishing Company). ATPCo then distributes fares to global distribution systems. Online and offline travel agents receive these published fares through one or more of these systems. Everyone has access to the tariff. Unpublished fare (also referred to as agreed fare) is still released through ATPCo, but part of the “fare rules” is an indicator of what the seller has access to and sell fare. This is essentially a private fare. Another difference is that the published fare must be sold at the price set by the airline (no surcharges or price reductions), while private fare can be marked. That's why you see online and offline agencies adding a service fee anywhere between $ 5 and $ 50 per published ticket. In the case of an agreed fare, the airline receives the specified amount and the seller is entitled to assign (add its margins) to this tariff. So the seller can arrange a $ 300 ticket from New York to London with Airline X and then tag and sell it for $ 345. Another noticeable difference between the agreed and published fare is the fact that on many (almost all) agreed tickets, you will not see the actual price you paid for the ticket. Instead, you'll see either a much higher fare or just tax information. Published tickets will show exactly what you paid for your ticket (without any service charges). In general, the agreed fare is often cheaper than the published fare (There are cases where an airline may have a "fire sale" that understands the fare level of the agreed fare) and therefore "where" is more important than "when" when it comes to buying international tickets.

Travelers travel

International ticket vendors fall into the following main categories:

(1) Major airlines

(2) Charter Airlines

(3) Travel agents online

(4) Travel agencies offline

(5) Global managers selling to the public

(6) Global managers who do not sell to the public

(6) Ethnic Consolidators or Destination Specialists

(8) Student travel consultants

(9) Travel agencies

Main airlines

These are carriers with which we all know well, such as American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, Northwest Airlines, Lufthansa, British Airways, KLM and many others. They offer air tickets via their own website and many other retailers listed above. They can offer web specials on their own site. They do not charge a service fee.

Charter Airlines

In Europe, this type of airline is much more common than in the US. Lease is essentially when a travel agent 'leases' or 'leases' an aircraft to fly with the holidaymakers from the airport of departure gate to the destination airport. There are several airlines that offer services from / to the US that have their roots in charter business. They regularly offer year-round or seasonal service to / from several selected US airports to one country. They are FAA approved and must comply with all airline safety rules and regulations. What sets them apart is their business model, which allows them to normally sell seats cheaper than large companies. Some of these alternative airlines are LTU, Condor, FlyGlobespan or Martinair. They also usually do not charge a service fee.

Travel agencies online

Players in this category are Travelocity, Orbitz, Cheaptickets, Expedia, Priceline, Hotwire, etc. They sell published and unpublished tickets. They charge a service fee. They usually also try to sell you other travel components, such as hotel accommodation, car rental, attraction tickets and / or travel insurance. If you are going abroad on holiday, buying a package (where the seller connects the air component to one or more ground components) may be an option and can save you money. In the next article I will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of packages.

Travel agencies offline

They are also called brick and mortar travel agencies, they are traditional agencies that you would go to, sit down and book your travel. Depending on size and target market, they may also double as an ethnic consolidator or target specialist. They also have access to consolidator tariffs that are not offered directly to the general public. Agency brick and mortar almost always charge a service fee.

Global managers who sell directly to the public

Many times these are travel agents who have decided to "cut out the mediator" and go directly to the airlines to negotiate their private tariffs. This allows them to resell at a lower price without losing margin. To get decent private tariffs, a global consolidator would have to offer $ 100 million a year in agency sales. Most tickets are sold at no service charge. If the consolidator sells published fare, it regularly adds a service fee.

Global managers who do not sell directly to the public

In the days before online tourism, very few agencies acted as their own consolidators. Instead, they worked through intermediaries (consolidators) who negotiated agreements with airlines. The consolidator would negotiate the above $ 300 agreement, add its margin and then sell it to the retail agency. The retail agent would then add its margin and sell it to the public. As the Internet has formed, agencies have been able to reach a much larger audience and have gained influence to deal directly with airlines. However, there are still many agencies, both offline and online, that offer consolidation providers, including. Given that volume consolidators can offer airlines, these tariffs could be beneficial even after several surcharges.

Ethnic Consolidators or Destination Specialists

It is probably one of the least known (general public) sources of cheap air tickets. They are also some of the hardest to find. The US is a nation of immigrants, and ethnic consolidators have traditionally served their former or immigrant communities. They were, and still are, cheap sources for airfares back to their home country. Unlike global consolidators, which can exceed $ 250 million a year in turnover, these ethnic outlets can only exceed $ 2 million to $ 5 million a year, but most can go to 1 or 2 carriers. They are highly specialized and have long-term relationships with their preferred carriers. These long-term and reliable relationships are why some ethnic moms and pop operations are able to secure ticket prices that are 20-30% lower than any of the online mega agencies. The Destination Specialist is similar in size and style to ethnic consolidators. They have become real experts in a country or region and have established relationships. The difference is that they often focus on foreign independent travelers (FIT). As I mentioned, the ticket prices that some of these stores can offer are often hard to beat, but the challenge is to find them. Google and Yahoo, and none of the other search engines often find them.

Student travel consultants

As the name suggests, these are agencies that target students (and in some cases the faculty). Like the global consolidator, they approach airlines and negotiate special discounts or private tariffs. The difference is that, according to an agreement with airlines, they can only sell to students (and faculties) in good faith. Students must often be enrolled in an accredited college or university and high school students are not eligible. The same applies to the faculty. Some agencies are better than others in terms of the fact that the person buying the ticket is actually a student.

Travel operators

Travel agencies are entities that sell holiday packages, such as all-inclusive, etc. They negotiate agreements with airlines, hotels, land operators, etc. They pack them together, label them and then sell them as one product to the public. Occasionally, they will only sell tickets (at the lowest prices) to fill the voids on the aircraft. Because they have a fixed price to pay to the aircraft operator, every empty space is an unused opportunity. The best opportunity to get one of these cheap places is usually in the Caribbean or Mexico.

Resources for international air services agreements are abundant. Finding the right one at the right time can have a big impact on whether you get a good fare or a lot. While getting a home ticket is often the result of (lucky) timing of getting a big international deal is often the result of knowing where to look.