Long a secretive and shady niche in the global travel industry, the shroud of mystery surrounding airline consolidators and the airlines that work with them is rapidly lifting.  Once loathe to publicly revealing their name in conjunction with their distribution partners in this opaque channel, airlines are now ‘opening their kimonos’, and loudly broadcasting their brand together with their distressed inventory on U.S. and European consolidator websites.   That’s good news for travel affiliates, for this new openness on the part of the airlines affords affiliates a great opportunity to drive more affiliate traffic to partner consolidator sites and increase their conversion rates.

The best example of this new-found airline enlightenment can be seen on Vayama.com, one of the leading airline consolidators on both sides of the Atlantic.  A new feature under their ‘In The Air Specials / Deals / Airlines category currently lists 65 U.S. and internationally based airlines, of which 38 are offering some sort of ‘Special Deal’ – that is, a deeply discounted airfares on the particular carrier.

On closer inspection off the 38 airlines currently offering ‘deals’, you’ll note five are U.S. carriers: American, Continental, Delta, United and US Airways.  Only Delta offers a travel affiliate program; the others, at least for the time being, prefer not to distribute through the affiliate channel.  Within this commercial paradox lies the brilliance of the travel affiliate / airline consolidator relationship: not only can the travel affiliate generate revenue selling a product that he or she typically cannot sell directly through the merchant, the travel affiliate can in most cases earn more money on the booking even if the airline offered a travel affiliate program!

For example, let’s look at Delta (DL), the only U.S. carrier that currently works with travel affiliates.  According to the terms of its affiliate agreement, Delta pays travel affiliates a commission of $3.00 to $5.00 for each ‘qualified domestic or international airline transaction’ (quailed transaction is defined by DL as “…a transaction which originates from your site, is completed at delta.com and generates one or more Delta tickets within a seven day window after the initial click-thru from your site.”

Additionally, it’s important to note that the $3-$5 sliding compensation scale is based on the monthly number of tickets generated by the travel affiliate on Delta in a given month, i.e., $3 earned for each of the first 49 transactions, $4 each for 50 – 199 transactions, and $5 each for 200 or more transactions, retroactive back to booking number one.

Contrast the compensation scheme with that of Vayama’s: if the travel affiliate made 1 or 200 bookings for international travel on Vayama, each booking – regardless of the total monthly tally – would result in fattening the travel affiliate’s wallet by $14.00!   A quick calculation shows the huge disparity between the 2 compensation models: 200 bookings on DL earns the travel affiliate $1,000 in any given month; the same 200 transactions on Vayama results in a commission check for $2,800!

What makes selling airline tickets through airline consolidators like Vayama even more compelling for travel affiliates is that they can generate similar returns selling seats on the four U.S. carriers that don’t distribute their product through the travel affiliate channel!

Vayama is not alone in offering this type of airline brand and fare transparency; other air consolidators like cFares, and TransAm have begun to more openly display and promote their partner airlines on their site, but none have yet to match Vayama’s ‘open kimono’ approach.

TravelDividends thinks the airlines’ willingness to publicly embrace airline consolidators is a positive step for the airline industry, airline consolidators as well as travel affiliate marketers. We urge any travel affiliate currently not working with airline consolidators – or hotel and resort aggregators / bed banks – that offer travel affiliate programs to consider including these travel products in their travel product portfolio.

TravelDividends is also very interested in hearing from both our travel affiliate community members as well as the airline consolidators that work with the travel affiliate channel as to their experience in selling discounted airline tickets, and how the relationship between the two partners can be strengthened and broadened.  Drop us an email and share your thoughts with our readers…as always, we truly appreciate your contributions!

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