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Cheap Airfares: Understanding The Basics Of It

Aug 17, 2007
As a smart traveller, you should always be looking for ways to travel cheap and getting cheap airfares is the first thing you need to plan.

Savings on cheap airfares means you can save your money for something more luxurious you can enjoy on the trip - like a hotel suite or a first class flight or simply a free second trip.

And if you travel by air, you would already know that airfares cost typically forms the dominant chunk of your travel bill be it leisure or holiday.

And so, it goes without saying that saving something like 30%-50% on those airfares on average, every time, will go a long way to put extra money into your travel itinerary - that otherwise would have gone into the hands of airlines and their shareholders.

But it can get really confusing out there when people talk about cheap airfares.

Everybody is advertising cheap airfares nowadays and what you thought you might have gotten a great deal may turn out to be second or even fifth best after you found out how cheap airfares in the industry really works.

Airlines, travel agents, tour operators, travel advisors, everybody wants a chunk of your travel money and unless you know how the airfare system works, you will simply not getting the best deals in town.

And it does matter where, why, how and when you are flying because your airfare savings depend on all of the above.

And it also matters what you prefer:

- cheapest airfares without any comfort,
- cheap airfares but with comfort and style, or
- cheapest but you are actually not getting those cheapest airfares.

The best is obviously the middle choice. The first one is not exactly one that a typical traveller would choose for obvious reasons and the last one is just a throw-down and plain deceiving.

Flying on cheap airfares with comfort and style is what most of us would go for.

Well, to get the cheapest airfares but yet fly in comfort and style, you just have to understand how the airline and air ticketing industry work.

While the whole industry airfare intricacies are obviously not comprehensible by just an explanation in this one article alone (the travel industry is one of the biggest sectors in the world), travellers can still get cheap airfares and good air ticket savings by getting a basic understanding of the industry first and how all the players fit in.

One of the most important distinctions is that a deregulated market airfare system like in the US is far different from the international airfare market. The rule of thumb is that it's certainly harder to exploit cheap airfares in a deregulated market.

This does not mean you cannot get cheap airfares in these markets, note this carefully, it just means compared to the average other Joe traveller in the market, you do not really get that significant a major advantage.

That said, there are loopholes of course, and cheap airfare tactics and strategies to exploit.

Note that there are more opportunities to get cheap airfares comparatively on international travel and it is a shame that common travellers do not exploit even these avenues.

Most sites will be advertising their cheap airfares gimmick but after understanding how the industry works, you are likely to wise up to these low airfare tactics.

Essentially, there are two major types of fares that is published and unpublished fares and this determines whether you get the cheap airfares that you want.

Published airfares are those which are available on the computerised reservation systems used by airlines and travel agents and which list down most of all the published airfares approved and filed with the respective countries' governments.

For international airfares, these are regulated by the one sole dominant body called the International Air Transportation Association (IATA). These airfares got to be registered and approved by IATA and the respective governments who have aviation agreements between them.

IATA is the monitoring body of these agreements.

As a condition of membership in IATA, airlines agree to sell their air tickets only at IATA-approved prices. IATA regulations strictly forbid the direct discounting of air tickets directly to passengers.

In case you are pondering, more than 90% of the airlines companies worldwide are members of IATA.

The good news however is that airlines do discount their airfare prices unofficially off their published prices to travel agents/sellers who buy in bulk and get the large discount from the airlines. Right, that is where you can really get cheap airfares.

These discounts are passed on to consumers in the form of cheaper airfares. Note that strictly under IATA rules, airlines are not actually allowed to do any discounting of their approved published air ticket prices.

But it happens nonetheless as not all airlines seats are sellable at 100% their published prices.

These cheap airfares agents/sellers are known in the industry as consolidators/bucket shop/discounters (the terms are typically used interchangeably although there are subtle differences between them). Basically, you need to find these sellers for a truly cheap airfare deal.

The rule of thumb is that you should always seek out cheap unpublished fares from a consolidator especially on international routes. The next time you buy air tickets, ask your travel agents to seek out the cheapest consolidator airfares first and then compared them to the published airfares directly from the airlines.

Or buy online yourself from these airfare consolidators. Most of them don not sell to the general public (only to registered travel agents) but increasingly, many do.

Some of the good ones include www.onetravel.com, www.flights.com, www.priceline.com, etc., which are some of the largest ones in the US. You can save as much as 40%-60% of the typical published airfares and be amazed.
About the Author
Steven Liew
Travel Research
Cheap Air Travel Club (CATC)

#The CATC club is comprised of like-minded free and fun travellers who just love to save on airfares and holiday bills. For more free tips and strategies on cheap airfares, just join us at http://www.cheapairtravelclub.com
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