Is it worth becoming a registered travel agent to buy personal tickets?
October 18, 2004 8:53 PM   Subscribe

Is it worth becoming a registered travel agent to buy personal tickets? [mi]

I know a lot of travel agents now book through airline websites, which set my brain a-humming. I can use this "internet", too! How much would one have to fly for it to be worth becoming a Travel Agent to get industry discounts? What are the costs associated with becoming a travel agent? (I am located in Quebec, Canada, but any and all info is appreciated.)
posted by louigi to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total)
Louigi, it's not easy or worth it. I used to work at a travel company and individuals tried to pass themselves off as agents all the time in order to get a discount. It never worked.
posted by dobbs at 10:05 PM on October 18, 2004

thanks dobbs ... what about getting an iata or a tids number, do you know anything about that? for at least a couple canadian airlines, it seems to be all you need in order to get agent's rates via their web site. i could be wrong about this.
posted by louigi at 10:18 PM on October 18, 2004

If you just want cheap travel, apply for work with an airline. Free* standby tickets to anywhere your airline goes!

* Except for taxes.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 10:24 PM on October 18, 2004

Your guide to IATA numbers

From a site selling books on how to start your own travel agency, but it has some info that may be of use to you.
posted by mrgavins at 10:42 PM on October 18, 2004

Louigi, I don't really have any info along those lines. The co. I worked at did all the work for the employees regarding IATA cards so I don't even know the process beyond filling in that annoying application.

The impression I got was that the "set yourself up as a travel agent to get discounts" thing worked for a while and then the legit businesses within the travel industry said screw this and found ways to ensure that people claiming to be travel agents were in fact real travel agents. I worked iin administration at the company so never actually had any hands on time with any of this. I just know that more than once I heard about "another client pretending to be a travel agent to get the discount."

At the time the analogy I was given was spam: the only people making money off it are the people selling the email addresses. (The only people making money off the "set yourself up as a TA" thing was the authors and companies who "helped" you do it.) In essence, I never heard of anyone who said it worked who wasn't also trying to sell some sort of "how to".
posted by dobbs at 11:08 PM on October 18, 2004

Would you actually save that much money on airline tickets? I thought they were slashing commisions, and you can usually beat their prices on the internet anyways.

Now tours and cruises are a different story, with 5-10% commisions. But there are travel agents on the net that will kick back all but 1% of that anyways, so it doesn't seem worth the effort there either.
posted by smackfu at 6:21 AM on October 19, 2004

Very few things are worth the hell of becoming a travel agent. I was one.

After being downsized by the agency I worked for (in Ohio), I was offered jobs by two of the most stable agencies (Carlson Wagonlit and AAA); both offered me starting pay of $8/hour for what amounts to a high-pressure job. On the upside, at least these two agencies could have afforded me the time off to send me on some "familiarization trips" to some sunny spots around the globe, at no cost to me.

These days, as a travel agent, you will book mostly leisure trips because the airlines have cut travel agent commissions on point-to-point tickets to nil. But there ARE some wicked tricks you can learn by being a travel agent. Playing tricks on the greedy airlines to get cheap fares was the best part of my job.

Here you go, just a few:

1. Broken fares:

Is a long trip ticket, say coast to coast, expensive? Do you know the major airlines connecting points? Often two cheap round-trips, say NY to a midwest connecting point, then the connecting point to LA, will be way less than one round trip, often $200 versus $400-$500.

Sometimes two round-trips bought both on the same airline will be cheaper than the same round trip with the same connection ON THE SAME AIRLINE, LOL! You just make sure the correspond, so you arrive in the connection point on the first leg of your first round-trip shortly before you depart the connection point on the first ticket of your second round-trip.

2. One way tickets:

Often a one-way ticket is double or triple the fare of a round-trip. Buy a round-trip then only fly one leg. Beware, though, as some airlines check to see if a passenger actually uses the return ticket.

3. Consolidators:

"Consolidators," especially for international flights, are companies that agree to buy up a large number of seats from an airline very cheap. Travel agents then buy from the consolidators and mark the price WAY up. I once bought a round-trip Ohio to Belize for a CSU student from a consolidator for about $300-$350 and marked it up $100 bucks, maybe even just $75 since she was a student. She told me everyone else she knew had already bought their tickets and paid in the $850-$1000 range. The downside: The first question a consolidator will ask you is "What is your IATA#?" So, if you're not an agent (or a friend), they won't sell you the ticket.

BEST SCENARIO for you, louigi:

If you know an agent or can weasel your way into an agency part-time, even (and maybe especially) to help with paperwork and such, they might let you in on the deals and let you use the agency's IATA#. If you really travel often, it might be worth it.

Oh, and here's tip #4:

4. Never fly Aeroflot unless you have to!!
posted by Shane at 7:05 AM on October 19, 2004

Some airlines, sometimes, offer "bereavement" fares for poor folks who have to travel at very short notice due to a serious family emergency (such as death of a close relative). I found this out in just those circumstances when trying to book a Seattle-London flight with a day's notice. BA offered to knock about $500 off the price (if I remember right, it would have been close to $1600, economy, at such short notice). It turned out I could fly a different route cheaper with a different carrier in that particular case, but the point to this anecdote is that such specials had to be booked through an agent. I suppose someone less than scrupulous could try faking a family death to get a last minute deal. They didn't ask for any proof.
posted by normy at 10:55 AM on October 19, 2004

I worked for a company that got IATA cards for the employees. From what I saw, it was rarely worth the trouble. The special offers were often, as Shane mentioned, broken fares that required a stop-over in the middle of nowhere.

Also, this particular IATA card made you swear up and down that if you were buying tickets for personal use that you would only be purchasing for yourself, and not any friends or family.
posted by falconred at 1:49 PM on October 19, 2004

You can do better on your own, as long as you're reasonably savvy. Using an IATA number when you're not a travel agent is nothing more than fraud.

And airlines sometimes ask for proof when you're requesting a bereavement fare -- if your Aunt Tillie died in Cancun over Christmas week, they might make you cough up a death certificate.
posted by Vidiot at 2:01 PM on October 19, 2004

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