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Service Fees, Domestic Flights And The Nuggets Of Gold The Travel Industry Doesn't Want You To Know About

By Naman Budheo

If you've been shopping for cheap flights online, you have encountered hundreds if not thousands of sites selling airfares. These sites are made of Mega Online agencies, Airlines, Online Airfares Specialists, Traditional Brick and Mortar (B&M) Travel agencies. This presents a huge pool of resources to wade to find cheap domestic flights.

What Is the Best Way To Find and Buy a Cheap Domestic Flight? First it is helpful to understand how the market for domestic fares works. After decades of offering travel agents a standard commission of at least 10%, many of the larger airline carriers in North America stopped paying base commissions to travel agents, beginning in March 2002. The elimination of commissions for domestic flights is important because travel agencies now needed to find a source of revenue to earn from the sale of domestic flights. Service fees have become the new source of revenue for travel agencies since commissions were eliminated.

Since 1998, the number of agencies charging service fees has increased from 64 percent to more than 99 percent of agencies, today. Typically, agencies charge fees for all airline-related services from as low as tens of dollars to hundreds of dollars. Therefore, finding the cheapest domestic flights is directly related to finding the cheapest services fees.

Now that I understand how the market for domestic fares and service fees work how do I find the cheapest flights? In theory, the best fare for any domestic flight should be available directly from the airline, if you knew exactly what to ask for. If you fly often enough, and value your time cheaply enough to make it worth investing your time in learning to make your own reservations, and searching each airline site since they do not sell any competitors fares. Airline web sites have the lowest service fees (sometimes no service fee). If you know exactly what you want, and are sure there are no alternatives this is a cheapest way to buy a domestic flight. However, there are problems with this method. If you have any questions, make a mistake in your reservation, need to make a change to a reservation or cancel a reservation, you are completely on your own. Airline customer service departments can take hours to get through for any problems you may encounter.

Online travel agencies offer you a search of all the airline possibilities with a low service fee. Unlike searching the airline sites, online travel agencies can search all airlines in one search so you do not have to go to each airline site one by one. However, do to commission cuts online sites may charge a small service fee which increases the cost of the domestic flight. It is an individual decision as to whether the service fee offsets the advantages of booking with a travel agency rather than the airline directly. "Bricks and Mortar travel agencies offer you a search of all the airline possibilities as well but with higher service fee. The reason for the higher fee is that booking over the telephone or in person creates a higher cost for the travel agency. This higher cost must be offset with higher services fees.

Online travel agencies provide the best value solution. They allow you to search all flight possibilities that airline sites can not offer. Many have very low service fees because bookings are made online so that greatly reduces the agencies costs. Finally, they can still offer you customer service for changes or questions you may have encountered so that you are not on your own.

About The Author

Naman Budheo is a travel specialist at Flight Network (, which offers amazing deals on domestic and international flights.


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