Airfarewatchdog is an airfare listing site. Our staff of real live human people searches multiple sites and when we find what seems to us a great deal, we enter it into our database and publish it, sending out email alerts to anyone signed up for a fare on that route.

The airfares we list on site are “published” fares that you can find easily on most airline websites and on online travel agencies (Priceline, Expedia, TripAdvisor, and so on).

But the fares we list may actually not always be the very lowest available. That’s because there are sometimes “unpublished” or “consolidator” airfares sold by specialized agencies. This article was written a while back but is still a valid explanation of this corner of the airfare market.

When you search for an airfare using our booking engine, which is powered by Bookingbuddy, a TripAdvisor “sister site,” you can sometimes see almost 30 different online travel agencies and airlines selling the same route and same airline, but not at the same fare. A recent example I found: LA to Auckland, New Zealand in March for a 14-day trip. Using BookingBuddy, 27 different booking options were possible. Only one had this $561 round-trip fare. Air New Zealand was also a booking option on BookingBuddy, but the fare was $934 round-trip on the same travel dates and flights. A big difference.

It does take some clicking around if you want to examine all possibilities but to save almost $400 per ticket it can be worth the effort.

The only thing about the lower unpublished fare: it’s probably a consolidator fare. That means that it may be totally unchangeable and non-cancelable under any circumstances. The fare probably won’t earn frequent flier miles, and might not allow advance seat selection, among other restrictions. Always a good idea to ask about these restrictions before buying and call the airline directly a few days after you book to confirm that the reservation has been made. Also, consolidators may not provide the same level or customer service you’d get from the airline. But again, the savings can be huge.

So next time you’re searching for an airfare on our site and you’re presented with a large number of booking options, click on them all. You might be surprised at the savings.

All products and services mentioned on Airfarewatchdog are independently selected by our team of expert travelers. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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