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Consolidated airfares

Location: Plane tickets / Consolidated airfares


Another popular way to find affordable flights




The consolidators, also known as "bucket shops" are travel agencies that buy plane tickets in bulk from the airlines and re-sell them to their own customers.

Due to the fact that bulk purchases of any product implicate smaller unit prices, the consolidator offices are able to sell the tickets cheaper than the airlines themselves.

By comparing the published fares of the air carriers and consolidators, you'll notice that in general, it's much more advantageous to purchase from the latter ones. This might seem strange and you might ask yourself: how come the carrier takes more and the retailer less? Seems paradoxal, but there's a rational explanation...

Airlines are never able to sell 100 % of the tickets, therefore they make deals with travel agencies in order to get rid of the unsold places, to their financial losses. Consolidator agencies are a particular type of travel agents. Usually, these companies live out of buying tickets in bulk and selling them one by one. The air carriers offer the right to issue tickets and sell them for a predetermined number of seats.

Airplanes are partitioned between the carrier company and the agents that re-sell the seats offered to them.

Consolidated airfares not not as intensively advertised as those offered directly by the carriers. Because airlines sign self-protecting agreements with their partner agents, which only sell a limited number of seats, usually incorporated into vacation packages, all inclusive trips.

Consolidator fares are usually published and advertised shortly before the flight departure. These are however, not last minute deals, because they appear days, weeks before the take off date. Airlines, on the other hand, start selling seats on the same flights months before the "bucket shops".

Consolidator fares are useful if you want to fly in group. If you travel in group (not in family, but with at least 10 people), then always check these deals, you will spend less. Plus, they might even cut the price for bringing more clients to them.

We recommend you to check both the offers of the consolidators and those of the air carriers and do some comparison, because tickets are not always cheaper with the agents.

A great thing about "bucket-shop" plane ticket purchases is that you don't need to book long time in advance, as it happens with the airlines (which usually require at least 14, 21 or 30 days advance booking).

Purchasing consolidated airline tickets is economic, but there are several negative aspects as well: consolidated tickets usually don't offer frequent flyer miles/points; some agents might put you on flights operated by carriers with poor reputation; these bucket shops might not warn you about visa or other documents necessary for international travel, unlike most major airlines that require you to possess the necessary travel documents in order to purchase.

Whenever you intend to buy consolidator tickets, we recommend you to do it from a reliable travel agent either if you purchase online or offline and ask questions about the rules of that specific seller to find out about refunds, possibilities to later modify or change the flight, etc.

But how do you know if a ticket is consolidated? Some agencies don't even mention what type of tickets they sell, so you might buy such tickets without being aware. And, there are plenty of disadvantages, which would give you bitter tears in case something goes wrong (such as flight cancellation, for instance), so don't overlook this possibility. Always ask your agent if the ticket is such one before paying for it.

Please not that consolidated airfares are for scheduled flights. Some consolidator agencies might try to fool you by selling you charter flight tickets. Make sure the flight is with a conventional carrier (not low cost) and is a scheduled one, not occasional or periodic (such as charter).

Below we take a short & comprehensive look at the pluses and minuses of obtaining such tickets...   


Last Minute Flights!


Advantages of consolidator airline tickets


Significantly cheaper than the tickets sold by the airlines (on average 15-25 % cheaper than at the carriers)

Possibility to make economies when travelling in group

Very good last minute discount offers

Multiple cheap airfare offers are available during summer especially and late spring


Disadvantages of consolidator airline tickets


Rarely applicable for short-haul flights (such as domestic destinations)

Prices are not well advertised, one has to hunt to find the best fares

Rare possibility for refunds

Inflexibility in later flight trip characteristic (route, date, etc.) modifications

Often when flights are canceled, delayed or postponed, the consolidator will not give compensations

Usually no possibility for participating in frequent flyer programs and gathering miles/points


Useful related resources


Consolidator Fare ComparisonConsolidator Fare Comparison is a powerful consolidator fare comparison tool. This fare aggregator allows you to search a large number of consolidators for the best prices!

Addition: November 20, 2009

Go Nomad - Consolidator Fares GuideGuide to Airline Ticket Consolidators

Offers advice to those wanting to learn about the consolidators/bucket shops. Goes through the main issues and shows examples of merchants and their services.

Addition: November 20, 2009

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