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Save with bucket shop fares

What are bucket shops?

Bucket shops—also called consolidators—are travel agencies that have "under the table" arrangements with specific airlines. These shops are allowed to sell tickets for less than published fares—often much less than the fares quoted by the airlines.

Bucket shops excel at Asian, Australasian, Middle Eastern, Eastern European, and African fares.

Discounts are less to competitive cities, such as Amsterdam, Bangkok, and Paris, that have frequent fare specials.

Shops tend to specialize. The one you use for India is not necessarily the one you want to use for South Africa. They're seldom good for fares between North American cities.

How do I find a bucket shop?

The recommendation of a friend or business colleague who travels regularily to your destination is the best way to find a bucket shop. This gives comfort that the agency you use will be reliable.

Moreover, in an arena of no set prices, an introduction by your friend may get you a better price.

If that doesn't work, calling an American or Canadian tourist office of your destination country or the local booking office of its national airline may provide you with where you can get the best prices. Ask, "Where do people buy the least expensive tickets to . . . . . .."

If you live in or are travelling through the New York City area, see the numerous discount fare ads in the Village Voice newspaper. New York is North America's most competitive travel market, so bargains—usually for international travel—are found every day.

You'll also see "bucket shop" discount airfare ads in the Sunday Los Angeles Times and other major newspapers. These are generally small ads in the travel section.

Prime markets for "under the table" cheap international tickets are Chicago, Miami, Montreal, San Francisco, Toronto, and Vancouver, as well as the cities mentioned above.

Use great care with bucket shops — consolidators

Note well these cautions and tips when using bucket shops:

  • Savings tend to be greatest when you deal with a consolidator that issues its own tickets, instead of an agency that orders tickets from somewhere else. Ask.

  • Get fares quoted with all taxes and fees.

    When you buy, you don't want to find out there are "ticketing fees" and other rubbish being added on after you book.

  • Try to pay with a credit card, if at all possible.

  • If asked to pay with cash, make sure the form of payment on the ticket shows cash, not someone's credit card.

  • Be sure that you understand cancellation and change rules.

    Get these in writing, if you can.

  • Know the routing risks you take. This is very important.

    Try to buy travel on one airline (or its partners), with as few connections as possible.

    For example, you may have to pay more to fly on Virgin Atlantic from New York to Delhi, but that may be worth it.

    An especially inexpensive routing to Delhi via Helsinki and Moscow using two airlines has more potential for trouble.

    Why? Any time you increase your number of connections, you increase your risk of delays. This can be a bad situation on any trip, but it can become even worse with a bucket shop ticket.

    Bucket shop tickets are often marked "non-endorsable." This means that if you miss that connection in Moscow, you can't be rerouted on another airline. In addition, you may not have the visa needed to leave the Moscow airport terminal for a hotel if you have to wait a day or two.

    Also, any time you set up a connection with another airline you add to your risk, especially if you're travelling with separate tickets for each airline. (See Combining fares.)

    Your second airline may tell you that it's not responsible that the first airline caused you to miss your connection. You're on your own paying re-booking fees, etc.

  • Beware that not all bucket shops have full integrity. Dr. Voyageur has experienced some truly sleazy operators in this business, both in Canada and the U.S.

    Get recommendations from friends who have used shops over the years.

    If that's not possible, check out a bucket shop with the Better Business Bureau before plunking down money.

    The Better Business Bureau site has links to Better Business bureaux throughout Canada and the States, if you need to check on any type of business.

  • Use a company, if possible, where you can pick up your ticket, instead of having it sent to you, unless you are issued an electronic ticket.

    Be sure to examine a paper ticket carefully before leaving the store—making sure that you have coupons for each flight, the dates are correct, etc.

    If issued an electronic ticket, call the airline to make sure that your booking is as you think it is.

Ethnic referrals

A great source for a reliable bucket shop referral is a friend from the same ethnic group of where you are travelling.

In fact, if possible, ask your friend to obtain the price quotation. On many routes, travellers whose families came from the destination country get the lowest quotes. It isn't legal in the U.S. for an airline or travel agency to discriminate on price based on passenger ethnicity, but it's apparently commonly done to some destinations.

Consider an alternative

You can often get similar fares to bucket shops or even uncut these using Priceline.com Air to "name your own price."

This company is very financially secure, with no long-term debt.

However—Note!—Priceline's fares are completely non refundable and dates cannot be changed, even by paying a penalty.

Your bucket shop ticket may have more liberal rules, which allow changes for a fee.

Be sure to check on this.

For more airfare savings tips:

Go to >> Airfare savings introduction
Go to >> Finding cheap fares
Go to >> Last-minute fares
Go to >> Combining fares
Go to >> Open jaws & circle trips
Go to >> One-way (single) airfares
Go to >> Bereavement flights
Go to >> Weekend internet fares
Go to >> Budget airlines, or Southwest Airlines
Go to >> Bucket shop fares
Go to >> Visit North America fares

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