Tips for Purchasing Air Tickets for Travel to USA

Tips for Purchasing Air Tickets for Travel to USA

Regular Ticket:
A regular ticket is also called full fare ticket or full priced ticket. It comes directly out of the airline’s ticket pool. It is issued by any travel agency using an airline ticket pricing system or directly purchased from the web site or on the Internet.

You can get a regular ticket either from a travel agent or directly from the airline, either on the airline web site or from the airline office. 

Consolidated Ticket:
As airlines are aware that they would not be able to sell every single ticket on every flight, they reserve a block of seats for ‘consolidators’. A consolidator is an agency or company that has a contract with a given airline (or multiple airlines sometimes) to sell these consolidated tickets that come from a special pool. Most of the time, consolidated tickets are considerably cheaper than regular tickets, unless the airline is running a special/sale on regular tickets. Many times, the airlines will be running special deals or price wars/reductions.

Consolidated tickets work out to be much cheaper for international travel to the US and are mostly sold by travel agencies that specialize in such international travel. You usually cannot buy a consolidated ticket directly from the airline. It may be possible that you can first make a reservation with the airline and then buy it from a travel agent. This may not always work, since airlines may be overbooked during peak periods. Some travel agents buy blocks of seats from airlines.

Some agents claim to be a consolidator even when they are not. There really is no good way to check if an agent is a consolidator for an airline. All consolidators sell to other agents. It doesn’t make any difference if an agent is a consolidator or not.

Shopping Around

You may buy a ticket either in your home country or in the US. If you are traveling from home country to the US and back, it may be cheaper to buy a ticket in your home country if you are going to make payment in your local currency. For round-trip from US to your home country and back, it may be cheaper to buy a ticket in the US if you are going to make a payment in US dollars. However, there is no harm in checking in both places.

Unfortunately, unlike domestic travel in some countries, air ticket prices are not fixed and vary a lot from time to time and from agent to agent. Therefore, a person needs to do a lot of research, homework, and shopping around to purchase airline tickets.

It might be safer if the travel agency has been appointed by “ARC” and “IATAN” and is a member of “ASTA” and has been in operation for a long period of time. 

If you already have a booking, and you are just shopping around for a price, you should mention to the agent about the reservations you made with the airlines directly. You should just ask for a price quote; otherwise, you run the risk of that travel agent taking over your ticketing without your prior authorization. Of course, you have to check whether the price the travel agent is quoting is for the booking you made or for the new booking the agent is going to make. Just because an agent quoted you a price, do not expect that price to be guaranteed unless you actually finalize the purchase. That means, you agreed to buy the ticket from the agent, at that price, at that time. Ticket prices can change, and most agents will quote you their current price, which may be higher or lower than what you were quoted earlier. You may mention the previous quote and see if the agent will honor it.

Make sure not to call several agents and give them your passenger list. If you do so, many agents will book you on the same airline, and that can result in multiple bookings, which are automatically cancelled by the airline, through no fault of the agent.

Also, if one agents tells you that there are no seats available, first contact the airline and confirm that the flight is indeed full, have one agent you trust put you on the waiting list, and then just wait for it and take the chance if you intend to go in that airline on that day. Once you put yourself in the waiting list with one agent, do not call several other agents and let them put you in a waiting list with the same airline for the same flight. If that happens, you are wait listed for same flight multiple times. When your name comes up for confirmation, most airline computers will detect your name more than once and auto-cancel you. Now you have lost your chance altogether.

Charging to Credit Card

While purchasing airline tickets, it is safer to pay using a credit card. However, many travel agents charge 3-4% for using a credit card. It would be extremely difficult for a good travel agent to offer the same price to you whether you pay cash or with a credit card. Every credit card company charges a transaction fee, and someone has to pay that fee. If you are looking for the cheapest possible ticket, you have to pay the credit card processing fee, as that is the cost that is simply passed on to you. After all, a travel agent has only a limited profit margin, and if they are offering the cheapest ticket, they can’t afford to pay credit card fees, too. Otherwise, those who don’t want to charge are paying a higher price because the cost of credit card processing will be added to every ticket. The practice of charging extra for credit cards may or may not be legal. You can report it to the local business authorities and the credit card company, but it depends on whether they will (or can) do anything.

However, it is possible to pay by credit card while purchasing a “regular ticket” as in that case, the airline is bearing the credit card processing fee.

Also, insist on getting the credit slip (customer’s copy) after you pay by credit card. This will help you with the paper work with the credit card companies, Better Business Bureau, etc., in case you are owed a refund, and the agent gives trouble.

To avoid paying extra on the credit card or for agents who don’t accept cards, you may want to send the payment using the transaction checks that credit card companies provide, sometimes without charging any transaction fee. If you do this, check with the agent beforehand if they will charge extra or not. Also, many credit card companies treat these checks the same as cash advances: you start paying finance charges the moment it is cashed. You may want to check with your credit card company as to their policies.

Receiving Tickets

You should ask the agent to email you the itinerary once you book your tickets. If the agent can’t email it to you immediately, you should ask them to read it to you to make sure there are no spelling mistakes in names, age, travel dates, etc. Most airlines don’t allow an incorrect name to be changed without a fee. However, if there is a minor error, like letter is left out or incorrect, they may make an exception and charge you no fee. You should contact the agent if you realize the error after you get the ticket.

All tickets are computer generated and no longer hand written. Also, make sure that you have the confirmed tickets. Insist that the agent give you confirmed tickets. Don’t depend on the agent to confirm your tickets for you. If at all possible, before you pay the agent, call the airline and check if your tickets are confirmed if the agent claims they are. If they aren’t, then give your agent a hard time. If they are, then save the confirmation number. Ask the airline to email you a copy of the confirmation. This will usually have your confirmation number on it. It becomes useful later if there is a dispute. When checking the booking with the airline, make sure you check the passenger name(s) and flights/times. Always verify with the airline(s) that the entire trip is confirmed before you leave. Confirm each and every leg of the flight individually. Some travel agents have been known to lie about it.

If you pay by check, make sure that the address on the check is correct. 

In most cases you need to keep calling the agent to remind him/her to send you the tickets in time. 

Problems with Your Agent

If a travel agent owes you a refund and gives you a hard time about it, you may try approaching the Better Business Bureau. It works sometimes. 

In case of a dispute with out-of-state travel agents, even if one wins the case in the courts of one’s home state, one still has to move the case to the courts of the other state and try and collect there. Quite impractical. It is better to buy tickets from a travel agent who you can visit in person, even if it costs little more, for if and when some problem arises. It is well worth it.

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