The cheapskate's mini-guide to airfare consolidators and specialty travel agents. The specialty travel agent usually works one small niche of the travel market. I include the specialty agent who provides cheap airfares with consolidators in this article.
As a member in good standing of this traveling elite (cheapskates), I try my best to find the cheapest airfare for any trip I take. Almost all knowledgeable travelers know that consolidator tickets are 30% - 70% cheaper than regular published airfare tickets. In the murky depths of airfare marketing, if you look long enough you can always find a cheaper fare. How much time will you spend looking? Time is limited. When you start planning your trip, your biggest worry is finding super cheap airplane tickets. Airfare is usually the budget traveler's single largest expense. I usually stay in hostels and family run tourist hotels.
Nearly every time, consolidator airfare tickets beat regular published airfares. There are times when airlines do their own special offers like "celebrating" a new route, but don't hold your breath. When I am looking for discount airline tickets, I don't count on published airfares. The odds are always better going with a consolidator or specialty travel agent.
There are pluses and minuses in using the services of a consolidator. Briefly, in addition to price, the pluses are you can head out at the last minute, they're skilled at planning round the world trips or exotic destination holidays for you, and planning cheap group travel.
The minuses are restrictions like having non-refundable / no change tickets, no choice of airlines, no frequent flier miles, inconvenient routing, and possible problems with a unreliable consolidator. The last problem can be reduced by using referrals and/or doing research. The days of the paper ticket are about finished. Most reservations can be confirmed by telephone. Restrictions and reliability of the ticket can be confirmed with the carrier.