Agents Help Travellers Save In Wake Of U.S Carrier Pricing Changes
Travel agents are once again proving their money-saving value in the wake of domestic pricing structure changes by several U.S.-based airlines.
The carriers, including AA, DL and UA, recently made subtle changes to their domestic pricing structure resulting in not-so-subtle changes to the cost of some airfares, with the business traveller feeling the greatest impact.
ASTA learned of this issue from its agent members who detected the change early, quickly began navigating through the complexities of fares and pricing and started saving money for their clients.
"The simple way to explain what is happening is that certain multi-segment itineraries now cost a significantly higher amount when they are presented as a single ticket rather than multiple one-way tickets," said ASTA President & CEO Zane Kerby in a news release.
"The negative impact is on the time it takes agents to issue multiple tickets for one trip, but consumers who book multi-city or circle trips through their trusted travel agent can experience significant savings."
The changes were made to what the airlines call "combinable fare rules," which prohibit certain one-way fares from being combined into the same PNR. For example, if a traveller needs to fly from NYC to LAX one day, from LAX to PHX the next, and from PHX back home to NYC, the price to ticket that all at once can be more than double the price of purchasing 3 separate one-way tickets.
To quantify, an ASTA agency owner told ASTA on Monday: "A test itinerary I did this morning on an AA circle trip showed the same ridiculously high fare display in the GDS, AA.com and Expedia. It cost roughly $1,800 for 1 ticket; only $450 for 3 tickets."
ASTA Chairman Roger Block, who is President of Travel Leaders Franchise Group, said, "The good news is travel agents immediately spotted what was happening, and figured out a way to work around it."
Memphis-based Rebecca Martin, President of A&I Travel Management, Inc., said: "Even though it is surely an unintended consequence, the fact is that the only defense against these egregiously higher prices is a professional travel agent who will manually price and ticket circle trip and open jaw itineraries.
“Corporate online booking tools can't do it; online travel agencies and search engines can't do it; not even the airlines' own websites can do it. That may change with time, but for right now, a manual touch is required and that's a powerful testament to a travel agent's ability to pivot as needed on behalf of valued customers."