While domestic airline ticket prices in the U.S. are more volatile (i.e. prices change frequently more frequently), the price difference between major travel sites like Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia and airline sites is no more than 10-20%. Domestic airline ticket sellers are divided into two categories: (1) airlines and (2) online travel agencies. There are a few specialized players but they serve a very small market. Therefore, when shopping for domestic plane travel deals, "time to buy" is more important than "place of purchase."
The opposite is true when obtaining an international flight. "Buy time" is still important (as it does not wait until the last minute) but "place of purchase" is more important. This is because air travel to Europe, Asia, Africa, South and Central America is somewhat less volatile (may not change much) but the price difference between different sellers can sometimes reach 50% or more. There are several reasons for this, and the two main reasons are (1) the type of prices offered and (2) the number of players in the field.
Type of price
Without getting too technical, there are two main types of international airline tickets; published and unpublished. In the domestic market, 97% of the price of the leisure tickets (take or take) is posted. A published fare that you can refer to as retail fare. The airline creates fare and rules associated with that price, then publishes the information through a clearing house called ATPCo (Airline Tariff Publishing Company). ATPCo then distributes the fare to global distribution systems. Online and offline travel agencies in turn retrieve these published prices through one or more of these systems. Everyone can access the fare. Unpublished fare (also referred to as negotiated fare) is still issued via ATPCo but part of the "fare rules" is an indication of what allows the seller to access and sell the fare. It is basically a private fare. Another difference is that published prices must be sold at the price set by the airline (without an increase or decrease in the price) while special fares can be distinguished. This is why you see online and offline agencies adding service fees ranging from $ 5 to $ 50 to a published fare ticket. With the negotiated fee, the airline will receive a specified amount and allow the seller to differentiate (add a margin) to that fee. So, the seller can negotiate a price of $ 300 from New York to London with airline X and then mark it up and sell it for $ 345. Another obvious difference between the negotiated and published fare is the fact that on many negotiated airline tickets (almost all) you will not see the actual price you paid for the ticket. Instead, you'll see much higher fare or only tax information. The published fare tickets will show exactly what you paid for the ticket (excluding any service charges). As a general rule, negotiated fare tickets are often cheaper than published fare tickets (there are cases in which an airline may have "fire cuts" that reduce negotiated fare levels) and this is why the "place" is more important than " When "when it comes to buying international airline tickets.
International airline ticket sellers fall into the following major categories:
(1) Major Airlines
(2) Charter Aviation
(3) online travel agencies
(4) Currently travel agencies
(5) International companies that sell to the public
(6) International merger companies that do not sell to the public
(7) Ethnic federations or destination specialists
(8) Student Travel Associations
(9) Tour operators
These are the carriers we all know like American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, Northwest Airlines, Lufthansa, British Airways, KLM and many more. They provide airline tickets via their website and many other sellers mentioned above. They may offer special web offers on their site. They do not charge service fees.
In Europe, this type of airline is more popular than in the United States. The charter is essentially when “chartering” or “chartering” flight operators a vacation plane from the departure port airport to the destination airport. There are a few airlines that provide service to / from the United States that have their roots in charter business. It regularly provides year-round or seasonal service to / from a few select US airports to one country. It is approved by the Federal Aviation Administration and must fulfill all airline safety rules and regulations. What sets them apart is their business model that allows them to sell seats cheaper than the major currencies. Some of these alternative airlines are LTU, Condor, FlyGlobespan, or Martinair just to name a few. They also usually do not charge service fees.
Online travel agencies
Players in this category are Travelocity, Orbitz, Cheaptickets, Expedia, Priceline, Hotwire, etc. They sell both published and unpublished airline tickets. They charge service fees. They also usually try to sell other travel components such as hotel accommodation, car rental, attraction tickets and / or travel insurance. If you are traveling abroad for a vacation, purchasing a package (where the seller assembles an air component with one or more ground components) can be an option and may save you money. In a later article I will cover the advantages and disadvantages of packages.
Currently travel agencies
Also referred to as brick and mortar travel agencies, these are the traditional agencies you can walk in, sit down and book your travel. Depending on the size and target market, it may also double as an ethnic or destination specialist. They also have access to standardization rates that are not directly available to the general public. Brick and mortar agencies always charge a service fee.
International companies that sell directly to the public
Often times, these travel agencies decided to "cut off the middleman" and go directly to the airlines to negotiate their own rates. This allows them to resell at a lower price without losing the profit margin. In order to obtain decent private prices, the global merger company must provide $ 100 million in the agency's annual sales. Most negotiated tickets are sold without service fees. If a unitary sells a published fare, it adds service fees regularly.
Global complexes that do not sell directly to the public
In the days before online travel online, there were very few agencies operating as their standard. Instead, they worked through (aggregated) brokers that negotiated deals with airlines. The consolidated firm will negotiate the same $ 300 deal mentioned above, add its margin and then sell it to a retail agency. Then the retail agent adds its margin and sells it to the public. As the Internet crystallized, agencies could reach a much larger audience and thus gained influence to negotiate directly with airlines. However, there are still many agencies, both online and offline, that provide standard airline tickets to brokers. Due to the sheer volume that carriers can offer, these prices may still be bargaining even after several increases.
Ethnic Challengers or Destination Specialists
This is perhaps one of the least known (by common) sources of cheap airline tickets. They are also hard to find. The United States is a nation of immigrants and ethnic consolidators have traditionally served their national or immigrant community. They were and still are cheap sources of air travel back home. Unlike global mergers that can make over $ 250 million in sales annually, these ethnic niches may turn over $ 2-5 million annually but most of that can go to one or two companies. They are very specialized and have long term relationships with their favorite companies. These long-standing and reliable relationships are the reason that some ethnic mothers and pops are able to secure airline tickets 20-30% less than any of the big online agencies. Destination specialists are similar in size and style to ethnic addicts. They have become real experts in a country or region and built relationships. The difference is that they often target the independent foreign traveler (FIT). As I mentioned, it is often difficult to overcome the air travel deals that some of these outlets can offer but the challenge is to find them. It is often not found by Google, Yahoo and any other search engine.
Student travel associations
As the name implies, these are agencies that target students (and in some cases faculty). Just like the global merger company, they approach airlines and negotiate special discounts or special rates. The difference is that according to the agreement with the airlines, they are only allowed to sell to good 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 faculty members. Some agencies are better than others in ensuring that the person who is buying the ticket is actually a student.
Tour operators are entities that sell vacation packages such as All Inclusive, etc. They negotiate deals with airlines, hotels, land operators, etc., bring them together, symbolize them and then sell them as one product to the public. Sometimes they will only sell airline tickets (at low prices) to fill empty seats on the plane. Since they have a fixed price that they have to pay the plane operator, any empty seat is a missed opportunity. The best chance of getting one of these cheap seats is usually for the Caribbean or Mexico.
Sources of bargains for international air travel are plentiful. Finding the right person at the right time can make a difference in whether you're getting a good fare or a great deal. While getting a local airline ticket deal is often a result of timing (lucky), getting a great international deal is often the result of knowing where to look.