In the era of booking travel online, it’s tougher than ever to be a travel agent. Clients can book their own vacations with the click of a button which begs the question of why an agent is relevant anymore. Thankfully, airline consolidators exist, and they are one of the greatest resources an agent can use to tip the playing field.
What is an airline consolidator?
Airline consolidators purchase tickets in bulk from airlines, and then sell those same tickets to travel agents. Agents who utilize airline consolidators get access to those low net fares – often at 45-60% off published fares. The advantage is that agents get exclusive fares and more control over the amount of commission when quoting clients a price. Because of the large price difference between net and published fares, the agent has room to sell airfare to clients at a discounted price while still securing a good commission for themselves.
Below are just a few of the many ways an airline consolidator can give you a competitive advantage.
Access to Behind-the-Scenes Fares from many sources
Airline consolidators have access to most, if not all, of the four major GDS (Global Distribution Systems) used by the travel industry. While agents would normally need to pay individually for the use of each GDS, many consolidators will share their access for free. This gives the agent unprecedented access to unpublished fares the client would never find online.
Airline consolidators beat the internet
These days, you can do just about anything online from grocery shopping to booking travel. That being said, you’ve probably had clients ask why they should book their travel through you – the travel agent. The truth is: yes, the clients could absolutely manage their own trip online. What they don’t know is that when agents work with consolidators, they hold the ace. No matter how good of a deal clients find online, airline consolidators can help you beat internet prices. Not only does this give agents an advantage over the internet, it also helps them stay competitive against other agents.
When it comes to group travel, some airlines may ask for higher deposits. The last thing you want to do as an agent is present clients with added trip costs. Thankfully, consolidators can negotiate lower deposits, thanks to their relationships with airlines.
Waivers and Favors
In last month’s article on the history of airline consolidation, we mentioned that in the old days, any changes or cancellations made to the itinerary would be footed by the consolidator and potentially the client. Nowadays, airlines are the ones that may charge fees for making last minute adjustments. However, airline consolidators can often get airlines to waive penalties on changes and refunds. Imagine the relief on your client’s face when you can tell them there are no additional fees for that last minute change!
Sometimes to make the sale, you need to step out of your comfort zone as an agent. So when a client asks you to plan a trip to a region you’re unfamiliar with, you accept the challenge. When a client has niche activities they’d like to participate in, you say “No problem!” Or maybe a client wants to go someplace, but has no idea what they want to do (and neither do you). In any case, you accept because you’re not about to lose a commission. If you work on your own, this can be frustrating and stressful. With an airline consolidator, it’s a breeze. Many consolidators have a special Service Desk or dedicated departments specifically for helping agents iron out travel wrinkles. Sky Bird Travel & Tours for instance has a tour division that can create fully customized tours. When you work with a consolidator like this, you need not lift a finger. Simply give them a destination and let the consolidator do the rest! The client will have no idea you had help planning the trip. The only thing they’ll be certain of is how smoothly it all went and how much fun they had!
Competing against the internet can be tricky but working with an airline consolidator tips the scale in your favor. You’ll have access to unpublished fares from the major industry GDS. Additionally, you’ll receive specialized service like assistance with trip planning. Group deposits are often lower when you book with a consolidator and any last minute changes or cancellations may have no fee – thanks to the relationship agents have with airlines.