Can travel agents offer better fares than booking directly with airline?

By mnc | Jun 09, 2018, 10:31 AM
I apologise if this is an ignorant question but I could not see a thread addressing this.

I usually book my flights directly through the airlines website and more recently AMEX travel ( they normally have exactly the same fare as the airline but save on credit card transaction fees)

Can big travel agencies e.g. Flight Centre or indeed the local travel agent offer signifcantly better fares than booking via the airline website?

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By ajstubbs | Jun 09, 2018, 11:49 AM
Unless it’s a contract fare, or a special partnership arrangement, the answer is almost always no. I have access to some special rates and occasionally contact travel agents just to see. Almost always, their rate is the same as through the airline and sometimes more.
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By Phil Young | Jun 09, 2018, 11:54 AM
My understanding is that airline commissions to travel agents are miserable, like about 5% for international, and zero for domestic bookings. TA's make their profits mostly on their other products and bookings, eg 40% on travel insurance.

Can anyone confirm or deny this?

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By henrus | Jun 09, 2018, 12:28 PM
My understanding is that airline commissions to travel agents are miserable, like about 5% for international, and zero for domestic bookings. TA's make their profits mostly on their other products and bookings, eg 40% on travel insurance.

Can anyone confirm or deny this?


Every airline has a different policy and most are online.

Qantas offers 5% on international (excluding trans tasman), 0% domestic
Virgin offers 5% on long haul intl, 3% on short haul intl, 0% on domestic and transtasman
Jetstar offers just $10.
Emirates - 5% in economy and 6% for first and business (and only 3% for SYD-CHC)

Often international airlines won't pay agents outside their home country.
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By Andrew Barkery | Jun 09, 2018, 12:53 PM
You can save the credit card surcharge if you take funds out of an ATM in a shopping centre and then go to the Asian travel agency and pay them cash.
Asian travel agencies seem to prefer this.
On websites, whether the airline's own, or via OTA (online travel agencies), you have to pay with card.
And not all banks are with Polipayments either.
Flybuys travel does not seem to have a credit card surcharge, or maybe they bear the cost.
On a J/F trip from Au to the UK, I think the credit card surcharge can be quite high.
Though, all that being said, I know someone who was looking to fly Au - KUL and FlightCentre was quoting Aud$8xx odd, but an Asian place was asking for about Aud$749 or so.
And they (the Asian travel agency) accept card payments.
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By StuParr | Jun 09, 2018, 01:25 PM
It depends, I use a specialist agency who maintains corporate agreements with a Uni I used to work for. They are happy to offer them for leisure travel and even now when I don’t work for the Iniversity anymore. I regularly get quite a good discount but only for certain airlines.
Last edited by StuParr at Jun 09, 2018, 07.03 PM.
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By Ourmanin | Jun 09, 2018, 02:16 PM
You can save the credit card surcharge if you take funds out of an ATM in a shopping centre and then go to the Asian travel agency and pay them cash.
Asian travel agencies seem to prefer this.
On websites, whether the airline's own, or via OTA (online travel agencies), you have to pay with card.
And not all banks are with Polipayments either.
Flybuys travel does not seem to have a credit card surcharge, or maybe they bear the cost.
On a J/F trip from Au to the UK, I think the credit card surcharge can be quite high.
Though, all that being said, I know someone who was looking to fly Au - KUL and FlightCentre was quoting Aud$8xx odd, but an Asian place was asking for about Aud$749 or so.
And they (the Asian travel agency) accept card payments.

Just remember that you do get an element of protection if you pay with a Credit Card, that you don't get if you pay with Cash or a Debit Card. I would personally never use cash (or if I did only to a company I had used many times and trusted completely). In extremis, should the agent go bust and there is a problem with the booking, like it hasn't actually be made (and yes this has happened before) if you paid with cash you can whistle for you money, if you used your Credit Card, it essentially becomes the Card providers problem and you get you r money back. Hopefully we soon see the changes here that have recently occurred in the UK which outlaw card surcharges.
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By Dredgy | Jun 09, 2018, 02:51 PM
Usually no, but it does happen.
Some airlines do occasionally do deals with agencies for very cheap fares, but I've never been able to get them.
If I find a really good fare then I check with a travel agency to see what they can do. Usually booking with an agency causes me issues (being unable to select seats on my own etc.) so I won't do it unless the savings are substantial, which has only happened once. I booked a flight BNE-SZX-PEK-PVG-BNE - on Skyscanner it was showing $2800 (for J) and Flight Center got it to sub $2k.

Exception for me has been RTW flights - Roundabout Travel consistently beats anything I've been able to do myself.
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By GBRGB | Jun 09, 2018, 08:59 PM
Sometimes, people at our golf club just booked a golf holiday, mostly business class fares through Asia, welll under anything they could find online, even compared to the same airlines they eventually booked with, all foreign carriers.
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By X | Jun 10, 2018, 01:02 AM
From a technical side there are a few different fare types:
Public Fares: Published in the booking systems and anyone can book these. These are usually the prices that airlines sell online. Private Fares: These require a rate code and are commonly used by corporate travel agents for businesses with a corporate contract. Travel agents rarely have a private fare they can sell to a customer without an existing relationship.
Then there are IT (Industry Ticket) and BT (Bulk Ticket) fares. On BT fares, a travel agent can buy a bulk amount of seats from the airline at a set price. They can then onsell them at whatever rate they like. The airline may attach certain restrictions such as seasonality etc. The travel agent as can sell these at whatever price they like, but often bundle them with hotel packages etc to ramp up their commision. They may offload these last minute cheap if they haven't covered there buyout costs. IT tickets are similar except the airline usually imposes the conditions regarding bundling with a hotel as the airline tries to offload distressed inventory.
So to answer the question... yes travel agents can get cheaper rates, but it often needs to be bundled with car or hotel to get an IT/ BT fare. Otherwise it will default to the public fare.
Last edited by David at Jun 10, 2018, 01.02 PM.
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By Clancy | Jun 10, 2018, 08:52 AM
Presently working for a large organisation and the price for domestic is the same on-line direct or through travel agency which has the contract with us, but they then add their fees...
Previously, back in the days of Ansett we had a direct corporate rebate structure with them and it was much better than 5%...!!!
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By Warrior | Jun 10, 2018, 09:55 AM
Not all fares are available on the airline website. I recently booked a simple return ticket to Europe on mixed airlines. None of the participating airlines offered the low fare on their own websites so I had to book with an online travel agent.
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By Bob Burgess | Jun 10, 2018, 01:07 PM
My 2 cents is that for most 'standard' fares going direct to an airlines is best, not only for the price but because some travel agents especially large ones like Flight Centre will add their own 'change fees' and 'cancellation fees' on top of what the airline charges, so if you change or cancel a booking direct with say Qantas you will pay less than of you booked with Flight Centre.

But there are many fares which are not available to the general public which a good travel agent can 'unlock' for you and they can also put together more complicated itineraries which you can't do online or which an airline call centre can't or won't do.

So for point-to-point trips like SYD-SIN for example most of the time an airline will be cheaper or better value.
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mnc

By lafleche | Jun 10, 2018, 09:44 PM
You can save the credit card surcharge if you take funds out of an ATM in a shopping centre and then go to the Asian travel agency and pay them cash.
Asian travel agencies seem to prefer this.
On websites, whether the airline's own, or via OTA (online travel agencies), you have to pay with card.
And not all banks are with Polipayments either.
Flybuys travel does not seem to have a credit card surcharge, or maybe they bear the cost.
On a J/F trip from Au to the UK, I think the credit card surcharge can be quite high.
Though, all that being said, I know someone who was looking to fly Au - KUL and FlightCentre was quoting Aud$8xx odd, but an Asian place was asking for about Aud$749 or so.
And they (the Asian travel agency) accept card payments.

Just remember that you do get an element of protection if you pay with a Credit Card, that you don't get if you pay with Cash or a Debit Card. I would personally never use cash (or if I did only to a company I had used many times and trusted completely). In extremis, should the agent go bust and there is a problem with the booking, like it hasn't actually be made (and yes this has happened before) if you paid with cash you can whistle for you money, if you used your Credit Card, it essentially becomes the Card providers problem and you get you r money back. Hopefully we soon see the changes here that have recently occurred in the UK which outlaw card surcharges.
and furthermore, you may also have travel insurance when you pay for your ticket with your card - depending on which type of course. I'd never pay cash for a ticket.

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By theduk | Jun 11, 2018, 11:43 AM
I've found no differences in general between online booking yourself & using an agent. In some cases, actually got better deals online myself than through agents. I recently went through this for a RTW fare & got an online price through OneWorld several hundred dollars per pax better than the agent. And the agent said they get very little comms from the airlines, with some of the European carriers paying nothing at all.
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mnc

By Ross | Jun 11, 2018, 02:14 PM
Sometimes the airline site is the best, sometimes an OTA and I used to find AMEX Platinum Travel very good but of the past year they can often not even do as well as the airline site.

My recent example was a CX J rtn DOH-KUL for just over $2000AUD on the CX website which AMEX could only quote $6500AUD - they could not see the CX fare in their system.
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