Why can't my travel agent match ITA software's price?
January 19, 2008 7:10 AM   Subscribe

I found a great price for a ticket using ITA software (thanks askmefi). After giving her all the booking details, my travel agent wasn't able to even remotely match the price. Is my agent just incompetent or is it really as complicated as she made it sound? I want that ticket!

This morning I found a round trip ticket from Warsaw to Cali for about 1000 USD using ITA software. This is a great price for this route. I immediately went to the travel agency to book it (I'm in Warsaw), handed the travel agent the printout from ITA software and started daydreaming about my upcoming trip home. The printout has all the booking details and fare construction so the agent knows exactly what to look for.

The itinerary I found involves a couple of different airlines but the connections are pretty convenient. The agent said her system would not allow her to issue the route as one ticket, and that the rate she got from her system for the same itinerary was about 4000 USD. She went into a few more technical details but the bottom line is that she would not be able to book this trip for me at an even remotely similar price.

If I go through a different travel agency, will they be more likely to find this fare or do all travel agencies use the same (or a very similar) system? Is ITA software's info only applicable to tickets bought in the US (I marked the purchase city as Warsaw)? Does my travel agent have any idea what she's doing?

I will go to a different agency on Monday and I'm exploring other itineraries. I just want to know if there's any point in me continuing to search using ITA software or if there's no way an agency here will be able to match their price.

Sorry for the length!
posted by juva to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I've had no problems sometimes finding ITA's reported fares for single-airline trips.

There are many different reservation systems available to travel agencies. There are four major global distribution systems, and even within one system, you might find some variation in the capabilities of different products sold to travel agents. The reservation system used by the agent may be less sophisticated than you can find elsewhere. She might also be less sophisticated than you can find elsewhere, or be unwilling to do something complicated.

Another possibility is that this particular travel agency may not be able to issue tickets on the stock of a carrier that can include sectors on each one of your airlines. A further possibility is that the availability of the fares ITA found changed by the time your travel agent took a crack on it.

I would look a little harder for an agent who can issue the itinerary as a single ticket.
posted by grouse at 7:20 AM on January 19, 2008

Travel agent? Call the airline. They'll match the price, and usually sell it over the phone. That's how I've always done it with ITA; they just need some of the numbers on the thing you printed out. I realize this might be harder in Warsaw, but it's the best way to go, and if an airline flies into the city, they ought to have an office there.

Travel agencies aren't always working with the same fare systems. And they sometimes charge fees which boost the price, although I don't know how it works in Warsaw.
posted by koeselitz at 9:59 AM on January 19, 2008

koeselitz, the problem is that this fare involves multiple airlines.
posted by grouse at 11:17 AM on January 19, 2008

Definitely call each airline and book it independently.
posted by arimathea at 11:58 AM on January 19, 2008

I apologize for not directly answering your question, but have you tried Skyscanner? I have found flights for less than $1000 from WAW to LAX (see here.

I hope you'll find my answer useful, even if not directly related to your question.
posted by Masi at 12:56 PM on January 19, 2008

You might not be able to get a fare like this from the airlines separately. Some fares are only available as part of larger trips. More importantly, you will lose protection on your onward connection if you book separately. This means that if the first airline gets you to the connection point late, you might then have to pay for a new flight on the second airline.

It might help if you pasted the details of the fare here.
posted by grouse at 1:58 PM on January 19, 2008

Thanks for all the suggestions. As grouse said, I went through a travel agent because the route involved multiple airlines and code shares. I tried booking online with each separate airline but the fare was much higher and it was Saturday afternoon so no point in calling them. The culprit seemed to be the last portion of the return flight : Milan - Warsaw, with Air One (operated by Lot Polish Airways); the system wouldn't calculate the price with this flight, but when she tried something else the price skyrocketed.
@Masi: I'll try skyscanner, thanks for the suggestion.
@grouse: The ticket is gone. I checked it last night and it was still available, but I just looked again and it's not there anymore. I don't have a copy of the booking details on this computer so I can't paste the fare details, but thanks anyway.
I'll keep checking from time to time; maybe the fare will show up again if someone cancels and I'll post the details just out of curiosity even if I've already bought another ticket.
posted by juva at 2:01 AM on January 20, 2008

I found the booking details and fare construction in case your still interested. The total price was PLN 2611 (per ticket).

Alitalia Flight AZ557 on an Embraer RJ-170 (jet) in coach class
(operated by Alitalia Express)
Departs Warsaw, Poland (WAW) Thur, Feb 7 6:20a
Arrives Milan, Italy (MXP) 8:30a
2 adults in booking code V, covered by fare (A1) below

Delta Air Lines Flight DL8170 on a Boeing 777 (jet) in coach class
(operated by Alitalia as Flight AZ636)
Departs Milan, Italy (MXP) Thur, Feb 7 10:10a 10 hrs 50 min
Arrives Miami, FL (MIA) 3:00p
2 adults in booking code K, covered by fare (A1) below

American Airlines Flight AA921 on a Boeing 737 (jet) in coach class
Departs Miami, FL (MIA) Thur, Feb 7 4:55p 3 hrs 35 min
Arrives Cali, Colombia (CLO) 8:30p 2 adults in booking code Q, covered by fare (B1) below


American Airlines Flight AA920 on a Boeing 737 (jet) in coach class
(breakfast, movie)
Departs Cali, Colombia (CLO) Sat, Feb 23 8:45a
Arrives Miami, FL (MIA) 12:25p
2 adults in booking code Q, covered by fare (B2) below

Layover in Miami
Delta Air Lines Flight DL8173 on a Boeing 777 (jet) in coach class
(operated by Alitalia as Flight AZ637)
Departs Miami, FL (MIA) Sat, Feb 23 5:00p
Arrives Milan, Italy (MXP) Sun, Feb 24 8:05a
2 adults in booking code K, covered by fare (A2) below

Layover in Milan
Air One Flight AP2318 on an Embraer ERJ-145 (jet) in coach class
(operated by LOT Polish Airways as Flight LO 318)
Departs Milan, Italy (MXP) Sun, Feb 24 11:00a
Arrives Warsaw, Poland (WAW) 1:10p
2 adults in booking code Y, covered by fare (A2) below

Fare construction:

WAW AZ X/MIL DL X/MIA M 204.20KLX7AP6M AA CLO M 149.50Q03L7S AA X/MIA M 149.50Q03L7S DL X/MIL AP WAW M 239.93KLW7AP6M NUC 743.13 END ROE 2.44855 FARE PLN 1820.00 XT 60.00XW 18.10HB 47.59IT 13.12VT 27.20YC 34.62XY 24.74XA 12.38AY 71.71CO 470.46YQ 11.13XF MIA4.50
posted by juva at 2:23 AM on January 20, 2008

That's not even that complicated. The fare consists of two fares on DL and two on AA. On the other hand, buying a flight operated by LO flight marketed by AP and sold by DL (possibly on AA's ticket stock) is rather strange, although I've heard of stranger (mostly in the context of "I have this really strange ticket and one of the airlines refuses to have anything to do with me"). And the fact that it is in booking code Y on a K fare means that it might be a mistake that you won't be able to get, actually.

For what it's worth, I just found some AA/AF itineraries for those days on aa.com for USD 1157. Don't know whether the times were as convenient.
posted by grouse at 3:23 AM on January 20, 2008

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