What the Google Travel Platform Could Look Like

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Image by ryantxr via Flickr

I see Google coming out with its own travel platform based on my  ‘connecting the dots’ between Google’s existing product line and previous travel acquisitions. It certainly has all the pieces to.

The exponential growth in possibilities given this list allows for multiple revenue opportunities makes it a compelling reason why Google would and at the very least could come out with it’s own travel platform.

I see the ITA Platform being the parent travel architecture — the Mother Ship — which it’ll use to plug existing and future travel products/services into. Throw a few acquisitions in there to balance out the platform offering.

  • Airfare Pricing — The billions of combinations of fares, schedules and availability available through the ITA QPX product.
  • Mobile Booking Engine or Mobile Travel Platform through the OnTheFly product ITA currently has.
  • Travel Content — through Ruba (there are better content companies to buy but that’s for another blog post!). Coupled with YouTube travel videos.
  • Visual Travel — add ITA Software to Google Earth and the notion of visual travel that many travel startups are attempting. Where a traveler can “see” their destination in 3D as part of researching a trip. How nice would that be – if their Visual Travel Offering is really good, maybe I won’t need to go on vacation at all. Just zooming in and “walking around” will be good enough.
  • Visual Travel Lite — add ITA Software to Google Maps for what I’ll describe as visual travel lite. Ability to pick multiple points on a Google Map and automatically get pricing. Where it’s a 2D experience akin to what Kayak Explore does (which I love by the way – we need that but with the right inventory so I don’t have to search another site but Kayak!).
  • Google Checkout Travel Merchant Services — Google Checkout, with changes in feature and policy, could easily offer a Travel Merchant Account Product. Anybody that sells travel knows how much of a problem taking credit cards is.
  • Google Social Travel play through the integration of ITA Software/Engine and the launch of (potential) Googles Kayak Killer coupled with its upcoming Facebook Killer. I agree that’s a lot of ‘theory’ but the stage is being set – whether they do it or not is a different story. A true social travel play could be in the making and I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with a number of social travel startups doing some very exciting things in this space. Google if you want to acquire any of them, please be in touch.
  • Predictive Travel. Take Google Insights for Search (for travel keywords for example) coupled with the QPX pricing engine coupled with the “predictive” algorithms in Google Trends and you could have a pretty interesting “travel suggestion engine” play going. End goal? For Google to tell me where I should go on vacation without having to think about it. 1 less thing I need to do.
  • The Door to Door Travel Company Play – take a number of “lesser” services like Google City Tours, Google Transit and add it to the ITA Software (and others on the page) along the lines of what Zoombu and other “door to door journey” sites want to do. Particularly as a differentiator within the (potential) Google Kayak Killer.
  • Location Based Travel — the opportunities within location based travel is just getting started. Google Places + Google Latitude + others on this list will make for a compelling advertising platform for Google. Check in to a place and you’ll get a coupon. Search for directions, GPS identifies your location, Google Places for local businesses with Google AdSense serving up advertisements/coupons.
  • YouTube Travel Videos and User Generated Travel Content.
  • Customer Service — Post purchase assistance with ticket changes and refunds and by addressing other “post purchase’ pain points based on the ITA Software ReShop product. Then integrating these services via an API.

Only the powers that be within Google truly know — I’m just thinking out loud here.

Agree? Disagree?

Please RETWEET!

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Google Analytics for Travel Agencies

Google Analytics for Travel Agencies

Analytic tools like Google Analytics (“GA”) are highly underutilized by travel companies.

Why Analytics?

To track the revenue you are making, to save money on marketing efforts that don’t make any money and to make you smarter about who’s coming to your site.

Am I underutilizing GA?

If all you track are visitors, hits, page views and keywords on Google Analytics (or equivalent analytics software), you’re losing out on potential revenue and intelligence about your visitors. 

If you don’t use custom variables, goals, funnel analysis, pivots or track outbound clicks, you need to stop what you’re doing and allocate a few hours as soon as possible to doing this.

Setting up Analytics is Not Difficult

I love that most of these features require one time setup, you don’t have to be a web developer and the insights show up in your Google Analytic reports within 24 hours.

Are these questions important to your travel agency? If so, implement Analytics.

Which keywords – paid or free – resulted in signups AND/OR in purchases?

Which AdWords resulted in purchases and which AdWords do I need to eliminate?

Which links in my email campaigns were clicked AND resulted in purchases/sign ups?

Feature 1: Using Goals and Funnels to Track Conversion Rates

Goals allow you to track users as they accomplish something on your site.

A goal can be somebody buying airfare, signing up for your newsletter, or completing a price request form. Each of these are unique goals you need to setup in Google Analytics (“GA”).

Goals are VERY IMPORTANT and VERY USEFUL. Don’t skip this section. It’s not that complicated and you only have to do this once!

What your Travel Agency Can Learn From This

·         Which paid keywords resulted in a purchase? What could be more important than that! No longer ‘guess’ which keywords work, know which one of your keywords work and don’t generate sign ups/purchases.

·         Does your main page or a subpage generate the most purchases? Don’t assume, know!

·         Change something on your site this week and see if your conversion rates goes up or down by comparing week over week data.

·         See which landing pages result in the greatest newsletter sign ups? Or result in purchases?

·         Did that expensive Adwords campaign actually generate profile sign ups? Did it get people to buy your airfare?

I can list dozens of uses and insights you can learn by setting up goals.

Setting a Goal in Google Analytics

Let’s say you want to track newsletter sign ups.

You have an index.html page (www.yourwebsite.com/index.html) where let’s say a user clicks a hyperlink or a graphic called ‘Newsletter Signup’.

This brings them to a newsletter sign up page (newsletter.html) where they enter their name and email address.

When they hit submit they get a third “Thank you for signing up for our newsletter” page called ‘thankyou.html.

Setup a new goal by:

1.       Clicking Analytic Settings

2.       Click ‘Edit’ next to the profile.

3.       Then click +Add Goal

4.       The default settings are fine with the exception of:

Goal Name: ‘Newsletter Signup’

Goal Position: Set 1 Goal 1 is this is your first goal is fine.

Goal Type: Click ‘URL Destination’

Match Type: Head Match

Goal URL: this is the URL of the thank you page (http://www.yourwebsite.com/thankyou.html) in our example.

5.       Click ‘Yes, create a funnel for this goal’.

A funnel describes the process a user goes through from the index.html page, to the newsletter.html page and finally ending at the thankyou.html page. These 3 pages make up the ‘newsletter signup funnel’. 

The funnel lets you see what % of people got to the newsletter sign up page (newsletter.html) and what % completed the form?

What keywords resulted in newsletter sign up?

A host of information you can review.

Setting up a goal will tell you that 30 people visited, of which 3 people successfully signed up for your newsletter.

What your Travel Agency Can Learn From This

·         Setup a ‘newsletters signup goal’ for newsletter signups.

·         Setup ‘airfare purchases goals’ for booking engine purchases (index.html page is the first page of your goal, airfare-prices.html is your second page, airfare-payment.html maybe the billing page of your booking engine and thank-you.html maybe the confirmation page’.

·         Setup ‘new profile goals’ if your site allows users to create profiles.

Viewing Goal Results – the fun part!

1.       Click ‘Goals’ and choose the ‘Newsletter Signup’ Goal

2.       You’ll see ‘Total Conversions’, your conversion rate, etc. Drill down on anything that has a link and read the information.

Viewing Funnel Results – even more fun if you run an ecommerce site!

1.       Sample Funnel Results for a Shopping Cart.

What You Can Learn with Funnels

·         You can see where users drop off in the funnel. Do you get people to the newsletter page but you lose them after that? Could you be asking too many questions? Eliminate fields and compare conversion %’s.

·         You can track purchases and more importantly which keywords brought in these purchases. This applies to paid and unpaid keywords. It’s nice to know you have a 30% conversion rate but its even nice to know ‘cheap business class tickets’ on your http://www.yourwebsite.com/frankfurt/business.html page earned you the highest conversions.

·         You can track how much time the user spends on each page. What page is taking the longest to complete? Is that page confusing? Can you make it easier by adding help pages, live help, splitting it into 2 pages, etc.. Maybe 90’% of the people search flights, 70% of those people choose to pay but 5% actually purchase. Could it be your payment form that needs adjustment? You now know which page to focus on and you can compare results this week to next week to the week after.

Feature 2: Which Button Did Visitors Press?

I’ve shown a typical booking engine with a button for Flight, Hotel, Car and Vacations. Users click what they want, complete the form, hit ‘Search Now’ and get whatever they are looking for.

What your Travel Agency Can Learn From This

How many times was Hotel clicked today?

How many times was Vacations clicked today? Is flight the most popular product type?

If I add a new option called ‘Packages’, how many clicks did it get?

Knowing what the user did allows a whole host of adjustments like making vacations the default tab, increasing your vacation related advertising, paying attention vacations as a potential trend you may have overlooked, etc..

Have affiliate links? This is a great way to track ‘outbound links’ you send your affiliates.

How to track outbound links with Google Analytics

By adding onClick="javascript: pageTracker._trackPageview(‘/outgoing/FareBuzzB2CEngine-Air’);" to the HTML for the Search Button (for Airfare).

You can alternatively add this onClick code when somebody presses ‘Airfare’ or ‘Hotel’.

In 4-24 hours, it will show up on your ‘Top Content’ report as:

·         From here, you can drill down using the Navigation Summary, Entrance Paths, Entrance Sources and Entrance Keywords pages.

·         You should change the highlighted words in  ‘/outgoing/FareBuzzB2CEngine-Air’ to anything you want to call it like ‘/outgoing/AirTab’, or ‘/outgoing/TopRightAdvertisingBanner’ or whatever you want.

·         The onClick code can be attached to pictures, search buttons, links and generally anywhere there is a link on a web page.

Feature 3: Filtering Your Own Traffic

Analytics are only as good as the quality of the underlying data and you can’t have useful data without filtering out all the times you and others from your company visit your company website.

Track clients, not your own company website traffic.

You should filter traffic for all staff, all sub contractors, anybody that modifies pages on the site and anybody who would count as a visit or hit

1.       Login to your GA account, click ‘Analytic Settings’ under the logo.

2.       Click ‘Edit’ next to the profile.

3.       Click Add Filter’ in the Filters Applied to Profile section

4.       Enter your IP address

·         Repeat for all staff work and home computers particularly people who upload content to the website.  This is very important.

·         If people have dynamic IP’s, then filter by domain name(s).

·         Visit http://www.whatismyip.com if you don’t know your IP ADDRESS.

What your Travel Agency Can Learn From This

You want to know the increase in site visits is due to a campaign or Google indexing your page and not because the new intern you hired is clicking through every page on your site.

The sanctity of your data is paramount. Filtering ensures you know the traffic to your site is from OUTSIDE of the company.

More to come! I’m just getting started.

This is the first in a series of posts on analytics. Analytics is definitely something you should embrace and explore.

What do you think? @travelalchemist on Twitter, drop me an email or put in a comment

Posted via email from travelalchemist’s musings, rants, reviews and reflections

What personalization means to a travel agency.

Your travel agency has 1 client, ME. Of course you have other clients but as it relates to me, I’m the only one. Treat me that way or come as close as you can.

          Only give me specials to places I regularly travel to. You have my booking history, if I book to Bangkok every 90 days. Guess what, I’ll be implicitly or explicitly interested in BKK deals. If I randomly mention I’d like to go to Fiji someday, remember that and let me know my ‘wish’ triggered a Fiji special.

 

          Only give me specials from my originating city – the fact that you have a special from some city I’m never going to originate from is useless. I already get umpteen emails and deals and tweets a day with offers, unless it’s about my city then you’re rapidly losing my mindshare. Particularly on newsletters. Personalize them please.

 

          If you have specials on your website, make sure there are seats at that price. I’m so glad there is a rate of $5 to London but since there were NOT SEATS AT THE TIME YOU PRINTED THE SPECIAL it does me no good. If I have to book between 2am and 5am listening to classical music during a lunar eclipse while only typing with my left hand, please tell me, I don’t mind read.

 

          Even better, do a random search of qualified dates and include a line like ‘Seats available on October 5th, 6th and 8th with inbound available on ‘October 15th’. At least I have a shot at this deal.

 

          Speak English. I don’t care about ‘validity dates’. You can have your PNR and it to your Amadeus and kill it with your SABRE. What does that mean. Tell me the validity date refers to when I must start my trip. That’s a lot better. What does 3D/12M mean? How am I supposed to figure out that means 3 day minimum and 12 month maximum?

 

          Listen to me – have feedback buttons everywhere on your website. I’m high maintenance; I’m your only customer remember. Have a ‘call me’ button that connects to your phone number. Ask for my feedback after you speak with me, after any call I make to your agency, after I make a booking and after I return from my trip.

 

I may not complete all of those requests but you’ll get more out of me than before and at least I know you care enough to ask. Also tell me where this magic feedback goes to and does anybody important actually read it? Also tell me instances of feedback from others that you actually implemented.

 

          Call me and ask open ended questions to gauge how I really feel. Don’t have a separate person especially call me ‘to conduct a survey’ and if you do, you better be able to connect me to a travel agent should a customer service problem or a sales opportunity present itself during a feedback call. This is an opportunity for you to shine and convert me back to being a customer. Tip: it would be much better to ask a few questions while you’re speaking to me on another matter like giving me an update or telling me my booking is done (I’ll be in a good mood that way too).

 

          Be as quick doing support as you are with sales. You were so quick to respond when you were selling me something but now that I have a problem you are ‘magically’ busy. If you were smart you’d be faster in support questions than sales questions. Provide me FAQ’s and ‘top 10 questions’ to read if you want me to not call/email as much. If this question comes up time and again whenever somebody buys this travel product then why haven’t you told me the answer; why did you wait till I asked the question?

 

          You may think my problem/questions/clarification is ‘no big deal’ and ‘not important’ but this is the first problem of its kind for me – I know you get this day in day out but that doesn’t matter to me and doesn’t make me feel any better. So yes I’m going to be a little impatient and will need you to walk me through this but the good news is I’ll remember you and give you my business in the future.

 

          I’m not ‘Dear Traveller’ or ‘Dear Valued Customer’. If you know me, you’d greet me by my first name at the very least.

 

          Call me after I return from my trip and ask me how it was. Wait 5 days so I’m not jet lagged and I’ve gotten over whatever problem is not your fault but that you’ll listen to and offer to help me with anyway. Also call me on anniversaries, important dates, my birthday, new years and if we’re really close on religious holidays. Call, not mass email. Call just to say ‘hi’ and see how things are. I won’t call you back but I’ll remember you called. I know you’re busy but so am I. I’m not lying around on the couch in between booking vacations with you.

 

          If you have a website, update it regularly. If you are too busy, hire some freelancer on oDesk to do it. Weekly at the very least. I don’t want to see specials that expired last month and a copyright at the bottom that says (2008).  I don’t want to see 2008 when filling out a form that has a date on it; that’s so last year. And when filling out a request form, try to ask me for the information just once and not over and over again. If you want me to visit your site often, don’t’ treat me like its my first time there.

 

          Make sure your website looks like (color, font, layout, where possible) your business card which looks like your newsletter which looks like your brochures. It lets me know there is a consistent feel to what you send out and not just boilerplate pre-packaged content. Also if you’re website is a FrontPage template, it’s too old. If your website hasn’t had an updated design in 2 years, it’s too old. I may not know what technology you use and I don’t care but all I care about is that your site is easy to use and looks nice and I don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to find what I want to buy.

 

          Get certified in a destination (Dubai Certified, etc..). I don’t expect you to be an expert for all destinations but the more places you are the more likely I’ll use you as a resource. I’m calling you to deal with an expert; if I wanted to deal with a faceless corporation I’d have booked online or with somebody else.

 

          I will call you when I don’t want to buy something. Consider this part of the sales cycle and be thankful it’s not one of 10,000 other agencies or 100’s of other websites I could be approaching.

 

          Thank Me. Just say thank you, say you appreciate my business. Say you want to earn my business in the future.

I have a laundry list of some easy and some not so easy ways to bring about personalization. Some I’ve listed above.

If you found this post useful, do drop me a comment or follow me on twitter (@travelalchemist) /  (http://www.twitter.com/travelalchemist

Posted via web from travelalchemist’s musings, rants, reviews and reflections

Travel Ratings 2.0

The only people that should be allowed to review a site are people who’ve purchased the product. You can only review a hotel if you’ve stayed at the hotel; only review the airline if you’ve bought a trip, and so on. It’s not rocket science and I certainly didn’t think of the concept. My contribution is to push to make this more of a reality.

My point is very few sites build around this ‘verified purchaser’ concept and that’s a mistake. More needs to be done.

Secondly, this concept goes beyond travel purchases and can be applied to any ecommerce site and their respective customers. I’d like to see more that happening as well.

I suggest there should be a general reviews section where anybody can review a company and a section for ‘verified purchasers’ to submit their reviews. Akin to what Amazon does. Let the reader get both points of view. I suspect the verified purchaser section will get more credibility and traffic but I don’t have access to enough evidence to back this up. If somebody has anonymous usage data they’d like to send me, please be in touch.

I can only go by what I, as a consumer, would want. At worst verified purchase reviews will cut down on disgruntled employees and reviews from competitors. Can you imagine the competition staying at your hotel or buying a ticket and submitting a bogus review, the bad PR alone would discourage people from doing it.

Only when this ‘verified purchaser’ concept is applied will the power of reviews truly shine through.

So where do we get this information? The only people who know whether a purchase has been made are the consumer, the travel agent and the underlying supplier to the travel supplier (the hotel, airline, rental car agency, etc. being reviewed).

The newest member to this group would be 3rd party trip sites that allow you to email your purchases to them and they’ll convert it to a format you can share with your friends and travelers at large.

These 3rd party travel sharing sites are especially poised to take advantage of verified reviews because they’ve already got a system to convert hundreds of purchase confirmation e-mails into a format that can be leveraged for reviews. They’ll know John Smith reviewing Singapore Airlines and Hyatt Hotels did in fact stay at a Hyatt and fly Singapore and therefore his review has legitimacy.

The system isn’t fool proof but it’s a giant step closer. These 3rd party sites can open these reviews up via an API and I suggest can earn revenue from them as well. Additional steps can be implemented to authenticate the data especially if there is some information sharing between the travel supplier and the 3rd party site (not going to happen anytime soon).

I look forward to reading the reviews on this. Sorry, couldn’t resist that last one.

Posted via web from travelalchemist’s musings, rants, reviews and reflections

Emerging Travel Destinations – tell me before the rest of the world.

Travel Destinations List (for travel agencies and travellers)

As a travel agent/agency, you want to build destination expertise before these destinations get on the radar to the mass public.

For two reasons, (a) to address early adopters (travellers looking to go off the beaten path) and (b) so you can pounce on the opportunity when these destinations do go mainstream (or at the very least increase their visibility).

– Vietnam

– Iceland

– Greenland in the Summer

– Argentina

– Colombia

– Qatar

– India (it’s getting quite mainstream but there is much more traction here)

– Fiji. I’d like to add Fiji to the list not because it’s new but because people things its ‘too exotic’ and ‘too far’ a place to consider. It’s not. 10+ hours flight from Los Angeles, family friendly, very affordable, very safe, very friendly people, very inviting culture, direct flights from Los Angeles, easy transportation and most importantly the white sand beaches you see on travel magazines. You’ll have unlimited bragging rights when you get back 😉 It’s been a few years since I’ve been to Fiji and in many ways I never left.

 

What should you do with this list if you’re a travel agency?

– Visit the locations if possible. Nothing beats going. Are there agent FAM rates available? Many of these locations are cheaper in general since they’re not as high traffic (yet!)

– Attend virtual or actual destination events for the cities.

– Find suppliers who are experts in these destinations and add that to the product mix

– Get feedback from any early adopter clients you have and tap their brains on their experiences. 

If this list is of value or have additional suggestions, follow me on Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/travelalchemist) where I post musings on the travel industry, business and a little economics.

 

Posted via web from travelalchemist’s musings, rants, reviews and reflections

How to Accrue Miles and Upgrade Consolidator Fares.

(this explanation accompanies an earlier article on consolidator airfare)

How do I check if my consolidator fare allows mileage? Ask if the consolidator fare allows mileage accrual or read the rules if purchasing online. If the rules allows mileage accrual (it’ll say FFP allowed or FF allowed), then you have cleared the first hurdle: whether the consolidator fare allows mileage accrual. You now have to see if the mileage program you belong to will accept these points.

What do I do next? When buying a ticket online or by telephone, ask for the class of service for your itinerary. Take the class of service and match it to the list of classes of service provided by your mileage program to see if you accrue points. 

The class of service will be a letter (like Q or M or N or L..) that your travel agent can give you when making a purchase or you can read the rules for a fare under the field ‘class of service’ if purchasing on a website.

Using the FareBasis field to find the Class of Service: if the rules for a fare do not explicitly list a class of service, it may list a field called the FareBasis. The class of service is the first letter in the farebasis. If the farebasis is HX1234 then the class of service is H. When checking the farebasis, please be sure you are looking at the farebasis and not any other field. The farebasis is different from your confirmation code and it’s easy to get mixed up. The farebasis is not always listed and if this is the case, do not substitute any other field with the farebasis.If you don’t know or can’t find the class of service, put an itinerary on hold and ask what the class of service is.

I have the class of service, now what: once you get the class of service for the fare you need to see if the airline allows you to accrue miles for that class of service.

You can find out by calling the airline mileage department or checking the online frequent flyer documentation for the mileage program receiving the credit. The key is knowing the class of service.

Just because the consolidator fare allows accrual does not mean the airline mileage program allows accrual. You are dealing with 2 different parties to the reservation.

Call or Visit the airlines frequent flyer program guide to find a list of classes of service. This is usually under the ‘How to Earn Miles’ section. Remember the consolidator fare has to allow mileage accrual AND the mileage program that you belong to has to allow mileage accrual.

Let me give you an example: https://www.aa.com/aa/i18nForward.do?p=/AAdvantage/partners/airlines/americanAirlines.jsp from American Airlines.

Eligible American Airlines/American Eagle Fare Classes*

Class of Service

Purchased Fares
Booked In:

Mileage Accrual Percentage

First Class

A, F, P

100% + 50% bonus

Business Class

D, I, J

100% + 25% bonus

Full Fare Economy Class

Y, B

100%

Discount Economy Class

H, K, M, L, W, V

100%

Deep Discount Economy Class

G, Q, N, O**, S

100%

*

American Airlines reserves the right to change the eligible fare classes at any time without notice.

**

Tickets between North America and Latin America booked in O are not eligible for mileage credit.

 

Note the class of service in the middle column and the mileage % on the right column.

Let’s say you are flying on Q class from Los Angeles to London and the travel agent confirms the consolidator fare does allow you to accrue mileage. Hurdle 1 of 2 complete.

You then look on the American Airlines AAdvantage Guide (or whatever mileage program is receiving the credit) to see what miles you can accrue on Q class. In looking at the above table, you will see 100% mileage for Q class which means for every mile you fly, you will earn 1 point per mile. Hurdle 2 of 2 is complete. Some airlines offer 50% mileage for deep discount tickets where every mile accrues 1/2 a point.

Every mileage program will have a similar list for every airline they allow credits from. If you fly Virgin Atlantic and wanted United Mileage credit, check the United Mileage website under ‘Earn Miles’. If you want to fly Singapore Airlines and credit your Thai Airways mileage account, check the Thair Airways mileage program details. The mileage program that is getting the credit is where you have to look. The airline giving the credit is not as important.

What if I want to earn status points with consolidator fares? For travelers looking to earn status, you will also want to find out from your mileage program whether you earn ‘elite points’ or ‘status points’. Follow the steps I’ve listed above. Some consolidator fares accrue mileage points and status points, some earn points but do not earn elite points. Each airline and frequent flyer program and each consolidator fare is different for every class of service so there is no one size fits all answer – please read the frequent flyer guide or ask a representative from your airline mileage program for details.

What if your itinerary does not accrue points but you’d like to have it? If your itinerary does not accrue points, ask the airline mileage department what classes of service do qualify for accruing elite points and give that list of fare classes to your travel agent. Sometimes you can pay a little more for a consolidator fare and accrue points, sometimes the fare jumps significantly in price. For example you call American Airlines and find out that N class on Cathay Pacific does not accrue points but if you book H, B or Y class you will accrue points. Tell this to your travel agent and request booking in book H, Y or B class. If you’re buying online, match the class of service from the airline mileage program to the class of service you’re buying.

Tip: It’s always a good idea to check yourself by matching the agent information to the airline mileage program. It’s frankly hard to keep up the myriad of mileage programs, various airlines joining and leaving alliances and increasing changes in mileage programs. Some agents may incorrectly even assume because the consolidator fare allows mileage that you’ll automatically earn elite points or mileage accrual. There are too many possible airlines corresponding to too many mileage programs to know. It’s best to check. You may purchase a X class fare only to find out the consolidator fare allows mileage but the airline mileage program does not.

Matching the class of service to the airline mileage program class of service also highlights odd limitations in mileage programs. For example American Airlines does not accrue mileage on British Airways flights even though they are part of the same alliance regardless of the class of service. You can fly first class on British Airways and accrue nothing to your American Airlines mileage acccount. You may be flying Los Angeles to London on British Airways thinking the consolidator fare allows mileage only to find out the airline does not allow mileage accrual.

The key is (a) does the consolidator fare allow mileage and (b) does the airline frequent flyer program allow mileage. Both have to say ‘yes’ for you to accrue miles. And if you’re worried about ‘status’ or keeping your ‘elite status’ you have the further concern of whether points qualify for ‘elite’ status or not. 

This is not difficult but you have to know what you’re doing and I hope this article tells you what to do.

Changing Alliance Partners: I’ve seen a number of airlines join and leave alliances. Alliances are collections of airlines that allow you to fly on one airline and accrue miles on another along with a number of other benefits.You may fly Virgin Atlantic and accrue miles on United Airlines for example because they are part of the Star Alliance. Airlines are going in and out of alliances so be sure to check. Japan Airlines for example left one alliance and joined another so if your flight occured during that time, you need to make sure you get the proper credit.

 

Can I upgrade a consolidator fare? If you are planning on upgrading a consolidator fare, ask the travel agent if this is allowed or read the rules to see if the consolidator fare allows upgrade. The same rules that govern change fees, cancellation fees, advance purchase are the same rules which spell out whether you can upgrade or not. Like mileage accrual, the consolidator fare has to allow the fare to be upgraded and the airline mileage department has to process the upgrade. Even if both say yes, you have the added step of checking with the airline mileage program to see if there are upgradeable seats for the date and route you are flying.

Only the airline mileage program knows which seats are upgradeable and which are not so with some quick thinking and knowing how the process works, you should be fine.

Suggestions on upgrading a consolidator fare: upgrading a consolidator ticket is a balancing act between the travel agent and the airline with you in the middle. The agency has the low fare which the airline cannot provide you yet only the mileage (frequent flyer) department of the airline can process the upgrade.

The travel agency cannot process your upgrade, they can only help with the underlying economy ticket.

The upgrade is handled by calling the mileage program for the airline you have points with. Call and tell them you have a consolidator ticket you want to upgrade into business class. Some full service travel agencies will call the airline for you (and essentially pretend to be you) and get you upgraded using your miles.

One of 3 scenarios will happen:

Scenario 1: Some airlines allow you to upgrade an itinerary that’s on hold without it being ticketed. This is the best case scenario. Have your travel agent put the itinerary on hold. Call the frequent flyer department for the airline, tell them you have a reservation you want upgraded, they process the upgrade. You then call the travel agent back and pay for the underlying economy ticket and the airline automatically processes the upgrade.

Scenario 2: Most of the time, the airline will only upgrade you with a ticketed itinerary. The good news is, most airline frequent flyer departments will tell you what seats and dates have upgradeable seats. So American Airlines AAdvantage will say Flight 192 from ORD to DEL on March 1st has upgradeable seats into business class and flight 193 from DEL to ORD on March 10th has upgradeable seats. Note the exact flight numbers, dates and times and give this to your travel agent right away.

Buy the exact flights the mileage department specified from your travel agent or consolidator.

After ticketing (which should be done as soon as possible), immediately call the airline back and request an upgrade. See if the travel agent or consolidator can ticket your itinerary faster because you are trying to get upgraded. There is no guarantee that you’ll get upgraded since you’re hoping upgradeable seats do not fill up while your reservation is being ticketed. Said another way, you hope the window of opportunity to upgrade is not lost in between the time it took to ticket your reservation and the time it takes to call the mileage program to request an upgrade.

Upgradeable seats are dynamic and change without notice. Much like discount seats in general. Just because there are upgradeable seats now does not mean there are upgradeable seats 5 minutes from now.

Get the information you need from the airline and have your travel agency ticket your itinerary right away. Immediately call the airline mileage program back. There is a very high probability you’ll be upgraded but there is no guarantee. The greater the time from ticketing to processing the upgrade, the higher the chance the upgrade will fail. Every minute counts in Scenario 2. It’s a race.

Scenario 3: the consolidator fare allows upgrades but there are no upgradeable seats. Airlines set aside a small number of seats for upgrades and unfortunately for the date and routing you have, there are no seats. If this happens, ask the mileage department for dates and times for flights with upgradeable seats and see if your travel agent or consolidator has fares. You can also take your chance by seeing if upgradeable seats open up as the flight gets closer to departure. This is not likely but you never know.

Only the airline mileage program can confirm an upgrade using miles or upgrade certificates.

Last but not least, some consolidator fares specifically state ‘this fare cannot be upgraded’ in which case regardless of whether the airline frequent flyer department has upgradeable seats or not, you cannot upgrade that reservation.

Once you’ve done one upgrade, the concept applies to future ones.

 

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Accruing Points with and Upgrading Consolidator Fares by TravelAlchemist is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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