Akshay Shah is the President of the United States Air Consolidation Association (USACA). It is the mission of USACA to serve as the national trade association for those air consolidator businesses which provide their travel agent customers with integrity, trust and reliability. Travel agents can view the USACA site and take a USACA approved training course at www.usaca.com.
TRO: For purposes of clarity, Akshay, explain the definition of a “consolidator”.
AS: A Consolidator is a travel agency that has specific airline contracts that allows it to resell to other travel agents. These contracts allow the travel agency to offer bulk and commissionable fares in economy / business and first class to its travel agent customers. Mainly the airline deals that are offered to the travel agents are for international destinations and do not require the travel agent to purchase a land option with it. Consolidators mainly deal in the leisure markets.
TRO: Who then, is not a consolidator?
AS: Any travel agent that deals directly with the public or with corporations. Tour operators have airline deals, however they must sell them in conjunction with land which is different than a consolidator who can sell air without land. Consolidators generally have to put up a letter of credit with their bank as additional guarantee with the airlines.
TRO: Why should travel agents use consolidators?
AS: Travel agents today on the majority of carriers do not earn any commission. By utilizing a consolidator they are able to either get commission off of a published fare or get a bulk fare that will allow the agency to add a mark up and sell it to their customer. As our recent ad campaign indicates: “There’s Money in the Air”!
TRO: In what circumstances can consolidators provide the most value?
AS: On any international ticket for economy / business or first class consolidators can provide the most value to the travel agent. In addition, consolidators are extremely helpful in complex itineraries (like around the world tickets or itineraries with many stops) and also with group bookings. Because of the deals a consolidator has they are able to put together the best prices for complex itineraries. For group bookings consolidators are also helpful because of the negotiated rates that consolidators have they can leverage these fares to obtain the best group fares.
TRO: Is a consolidator ticket just like any other ticket? Will my client be first to be “bumped”?
AS: A consolidator ticket is absolutely like any other ticket. The passenger has the same rights as any other passenger flying on the same airline / itinerary. Therefore, they will not be bumped because of these types of tickets. The main difference between a consolidator ticket and any other ticket is that consolidator tickets may not be upgraded with miles. But, and this is important, passengers do earn miles on them.
TRO: What is USACA, and what is the criteria for admission?
AS: United States Air Consolidation Association serves as the national trade association for airline ticket consolidators committed to integrity, trust and reliability. The criteria for becoming a USACA consolidator member is at least $20 million in annual air consolidation sales, contracted with three major carriers, has been incorporated in the US for at least two years and has never filed for bankruptcy or ceased operations.
TRO: What are the advantages for using a USACA member?
AS: As mentioned USACA members are committed to integrity, trust and reliability. This gives the travel agent the peace of mind that the consolidator they are doing business issues their own tickets and does not buy from others. In addition, commissions would be paid on time as well as assurance that their traveler’s reservation will be handled professionally. Most USACA members have or are about to have systems that allow travel agencies to obtain quotes via any CRS or the Web saving significant time to the agent allowing him/her to deliver superior service to the passenger. Further, most USACA members have the ability to negotiate last minute tickets and offer lower airfares to your clients. Finally, USACA members provide air consolidator tickets to retailers within fourteen business days of receipt of payment.
TRO: Is there online training for how to work with Consolidators?
AS: Yes there is online training on how to work with consolidators at the USACA web site. The syllabus is complete with History, examples of fares offered, and everything else a travel agent needs to know about consolidators.
TRO: Can I choose the airline I use when I book through a consolidator?
AS: Absolutely! Consolidators may specialize in a particular continent or countries. They will most likely have the majority of the carriers for you to choose from to those destinations.
TRO: What is an “around the world” ticket and how can I use them for clients?
AS: An around the world ticket is exactly what it sounds like. It is a traveler that will be going to multiple destinations throughout the world that will circumnavigate east or westward the globe. With a consolidator you can get the best rate possible for these itineraries as they have numerous contracts that a consolidator can take avail of to give the most competitive fare to the traveler. This means greater profit for the travel agent. The start and end of the journey almost always have to be located in the same country and exactly one crossing each of the Atlantic and Pacific must be included in the itinerary. The number of stops is usually restricted to 5-16, and backtracking between continents (especially Europe/Asia) is often restricted.
TRO: Tell us about the new USACA web site.
AS: USACA has recently launched a new website that we are very pleased with and hope agents find helpful. Firstly, there are profiles of each member consolidator and a search engine to see which consolidators serve various markets worldwide. There is also an online training course agents can take to become more proficient and profitable in their consolidator bookings. Finally, there is USACA RFQ (Request for Quote) which allows a travel agent to enter an itinerary and have multiple USACA members provide a quote. We get an average of 20 quotes per day through the system.