The difference between finding a cheap domestic versus a cheap international plane ticket

While the domestic airline ticket in the US is much more volatile (i.e., prices change much more often), the price gap between major travel sites like Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia and airline sites is often no more than 10- 20%. Domestic airline ticket sellers fall into 2 categories: (1) airlines and (2) online travel agencies. There are several niche players, but they serve a very small market. Therefore, when shopping for domestic airline tickets is "when to buy" it is usually more important than "where to buy".

The opposite is true when securing an international airline ticket deal. When to buy is still important (don't wait until the last minute), but where to buy is much more important. This is because airfare to Europe, Asia, Africa and South and Central America is a little more volatile (may not change as often), but the price differential between providers can sometimes be up to 50% or more. There are several reasons for this, but the two main reasons are (1) the type of tariffs offered and (2) the number of players on the pitch.

The type of prices

Without receiving many technical features, there are basically two types of international airline tickets; published and unpublished. In the internal market, 97% of leisure tariffs are published (give or take). Posted fee, which you can specify as a retail price. The airline creates the tariff and the rules associated with that tariff, and then publishes the information through a clearing house called ATPCo (Airline Tariff Publishing Company). ATPCo then distributes the fee to global distribution systems. Online and offline travel agencies, in turn, derive these published rates through one or more of these systems. Everyone has access to the tariff. An unpublished tariff (also called a bargain fee) is still released through ATPCo, but part of the "tariff rules" is an indicator of which sellers are allowed to access and sell the tariff. It is essentially a private tariff. Another difference is that published fares must be sold at a price set by the airline (no surcharges or reductions), while a private fare can be marked. That's why you see that online and offline agencies add a service charge of between $ 5 and $ 50 to a published ticket. With a negotiated tariff, the airline will receive a certain amount and the seller has the right to mark (add his margin) to this tariff. So the seller can negotiate a $ 300 fee from New York to London with Airlines X and then tag it and sell it for $ 345. Another visible difference between the agreed and published fare is the fact that on many (almost all) airline tickets you will not see the actual price you paid for the ticket. Instead, you'll see either a much higher rate or just tax information. Published Ticket Tickets will show exactly what you paid for the tickets (excluding all service fees). As a general rule, ticketed tickets are often cheaper than published ticketed tickets (There are times where an airline may have a "fire sale" that undercuts the agreed fare rates) and therefore "where" is more important from "when" when it comes to buying international airline tickets.

Travel Sellers

International airline ticket sellers fall into the following main categories:

(1) Major airlines

(2) Charter Airlines

(3) Online travel agencies

(4) Offline travel agencies

(5) Global consolidators that sell to the public

(6) Global consolidators who do not sell to Public

(7) Ethnic consolidators or destination specialists

(8) Student Traveling Consolidators

(9) Tour Operators

Major airlines

These are the carriers we are all familiar with like American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, Northwest Airlines, Lufthansa, British Airways, KLM and many more. They offer airline tickets through their own website and many of the other vendors listed above. They can offer web promotions on their own site. They do not charge a service fee.

Airlines chart

In Europe, these types of airlines are much more common than in the US. A charter is basically where a tour operator "rents" or "rents" an aircraft to fly vacationers from the airport of the departure gateway to the destination airport. There are several airlines that offer services to / from the US that have their roots in the charter business. They regularly offer year-round or seasonal service to / from several selected US airports to one country. They are approved by the FAA and must comply with all airline safety rules and regulations. What sets them apart is their business model, which allows them to sell seats cheaper than specialties. Some of these alternative airlines are LTU, Condor, FlyGlobespan or Martinair. Usually they also do not charge for the service.

Online travel agencies

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

Offline travel agencies

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

Global consolidators sold directly to the public

Many times, these are travel agencies that decide to "cut the middleman" and go directly to the airlines to negotiate their own private fares. This then allows them to resell them at a lower price without losing their margin. To get decent private rates, the global consolidator will have to offer $ 100 million + in annual agency sales. Most of the tickets are sold at no charge. If the consolidator sells a published tariff, it regularly adds a service charge.

Global consolidators that are not sold directly to the public

In the days before online travel, very few agencies would act as a consolidator. Instead, they worked through intermediaries (consolidators) who negotiated deals with the airlines. The consolidator will negotiate the same deal for $ 300 mentioned above, add its margin and then sell it to a retailer. The retail agent will then add his margin and sell it to the public. As the Internet took shape, agencies were able to reach a much larger audience and therefore won direct negotiations with the airlines. Nevertheless, there are still many agencies offline and online that offer consolidation ticket brokers. Because of the full volume consolidators they can offer an airline, these fares could still be a bargain even after a few surcharges.

Ethnic consolidators or destination specialists

These are probably one of the least known (from the general public that is) sources for cheap airline 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 patriot or immigrant community. They were, and still are, the cheapest sources of airline tickets back home. Unlike global consolidators, which can translate into sales of over $ 250 million + a year, these ethnic outlets can only make $ 2-5 million a year, but most can go to 1 or 2 carriers. They are highly specialized and have long-standing relationships with their preferred carriers. These long-term, reliable relationships are the reason some ethnic mom-and-pop operations manage to secure airfare fares that are 20-30% lower than any of the online mega-agencies. Destination specialists are similar to ethnic consolidators in size and style. They have become real experts in a country or region and have built relationships. The difference is that they often target a foreign independent traveler (FIT). As I mentioned, airline deals that some of these retail outlets can offer are often difficult to overcome, but the challenge is to find them. Google and Yahoo, as well as any other search engine, often do not find them.

Student traveling consolidators

As the name implies, these are student-oriented agencies (and in some cases, faculty). Just like a global consolidator, they approach airlines and negotiate special discounts or private rates. The difference is that under the agreement with the airlines, they are only allowed to sell to bona fide students (and faculty). Often students must be enrolled in an accredited college or university, and high school students are not eligible. The same applies to teachers. Some agencies are better than others at ensuring that the person who buys the ticket is actually a student.

Tour Operators

Tour operators are entities that sell holiday packages such as all-inclusive and more. Sometimes they will only sell an airline ticket (at the lowest prices) to fill the voids in the airplane. Because they have a fixed price to pay to the aircraft operator, any vacancy is a missed opportunity. The best chance to get one of these cheap places is usually to the Caribbean or Mexico.

There are many sources for international airline ticket deals. Finding the right one at the right time can lead to everything whether you get a good price or a lot. While concluding an internal airline deal is often the result of (luck) time getting a big international deal is often the result of knowing where to look.