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An airline consolidator is a wholesaler of airline tickets. Airlines use consolidators as a means to reach out to more niche target audiences, and by offering discounts and fare flexibility that is relevant to the target group. Consolidators work through contracts with major carriers to sell at reduced prices which are for niche ethnic markets, the main benefit being that fares through consolidators will be lower than published rates available from the airlines themselves. Airlines consolidators do not buy the seats in bulk for resale, they sell the available inventory at contracted rates. Airlines normally preset the selling rates for these fares for sale to sub-agents and to end customers, thereby ensuring that the fares are not undercut.
Consolidators are most beneficial in international markets. For domestic U.S. markets, typically, they are only advantageous for business class and first class fares. Tickets purchased through consolidators may have very different fare rules than typical published fares, and sometimes frequent flyer credit may not be accrued.
Even though many consolidators are online, most consolidators still work only through bona fide retail travel agents. Many consolidators also act as host agencies for local travel agencies. Today many of the online OTA use consolidators to increase margins on sales since airlines do not pay commissions.
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