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Cruise Air and Air Deviation Explanation

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I posted this on the Princess board in response to ANOTHER missed cruise due to cruise air. Hope the info is helpful.

 

Let me just clarify a couple things. Cruise air/air deviation and how it works behind the scenes was explained to me by an airline industry rep at an industry conference four years ago. For the example, she used LAX/MIA, both cruise air and air deviation. She was also an AA rep, so the following reflect AA routings. I thought the analogy was great and easy to understand:

 

Imagine you have 4 stacks of cards in front of you, each containing 30 cards. The 30 cards represent the allotment the cruise line bought from the airline at consolidator rates.

 

Stack one is LAX/MIA nonstop. 27 request air deviation-nonstop to MIA. Stack one is now down to 3 cards and the 27 pax paid the same price as "regular" cruise air (where you don't know what you are getting until 30-60 days out).

 

Stack two is LAX/DFW/MIA. Again, 27 people request deviation, same scenario. Pax accept one stopper at their choice of times.

 

Stack three is LAX/ORD/MIA. Again 27 people request deviation-ditto

 

Stack four contains these tickets-LAX/SEA, LAX/ORD, LAX/DFW, LAX/JFK, ORD/JFK, ORD/MIA, JFK/MIA

 

20 additional pax request air deviation-want LAX/MIA nonstop

 

3 people get air deviation at the same price as cruise air, 17 have to be booked on "free call" tickets. These are NOT the same as the original 30 tickets. They are generally booked in Q or O class (the lowest, generally available AA class) IF there are tickets available in those classes. If there are no tickets available to the cruise line in those classes, then AA will make available tickets in higher fare classes. Please note that Q and O class tickets are HIGHER priced than the "regular" consolidator class air deviation tickets, so the 17 pax will definitely pay a higher price than "regular" cruise air pax or deviation pax with consolidator class tickets.

 

IF and this is a BIG IF, the cruise line/airline contract ALLOWS the cruise line to purchase more nonstop tickets, these are FULLY ENDORSABLE tickets, the same as purchasing direct from AA. Depending on time of year and demand, you may be told there are NO air deviation tickets available.

 

What does the example tell us: Quite a few of the air deviation pax are booked on consolidator class fares. These are group rates given under contract from the airline to the cruise line. The airline states "you will pay us $200.00 per ticket. We don't care what you sell it for". That is how ALL consolidator tickets work. However, there are some VERY stringent restrictions on these types of tickets. USUALLY-very large change fees, if a change is allowed at all, and NON ENDORSABLE tickets (they have no value to another airline).

 

So most of the pax who requested air deviation are still using consolidator class tickets. If there is a problem, depending on the goodwill of the airline/cruise line, you may or may not (most likely) be put on another carrier to reach your destination.

 

To be placed on another carrier with a consolidator ticket, the originating carrier has to pay the flying carrier IN CASH-there is no tit for tat exchanging seats, as is common with endorsable tickets. With most airlines in financial trouble, most likely the airline will NOT pay for a ticket on another carrier. And Southwest, AirTran and JetBlue for the most part DO NOT participate in tit for tat exchanges with any carrier, but you will not find cruise lines buying those tickets.

 

The few lucky people who paid extra have fully endorsable tickets, good on any airline the originating carrier has agreements with and seats available. But they paid EXTRA. They could have booked their own seats and saved money.

 

What happens to the "regular" cruise air pax? See the remnants of piles 2 and 3? See pile 4???

 

That is what is left. So somehow, the cruise line has to get those pax from LAX to Miami. Six lucky people will get a one stopper, either ORD or DFW. The rest-Take a combination of cards-lets say LAX/SEA/ORD/JFK/MIA. The cruise line has now fulfilled their obligation to get you to the ship. And because the cruise line does not put the flights together until AFTER final payment, regular cruise air pax are left with PILE 4.

 

It does not matter that it will take you 12 hours to get to the cruise and you had to leave home at 2:00AM to arrive in MIA at 4:00PM for a cruise that departs at 6:00PM. OOOPS!!! Just missed the connection at ORD. If things weren't bad enough already, you just missed your cruise. Hope the next port stop is within a day and seats on the next flight are available.

 

This was very hard to write down. It is much easier to tell it in person. Hope it made sense and clarified some issues!!!

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Attention Moderator(s). Sticky this post.

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Thank you for that excellent primer on cruise air tickets.

 

Two queries: 1) why do the cruise lines (generally) charge more than market price for a consolidator class ticket? 2) why would anyone pay more than market price for a consolidator class ticket?

 

I am fully aware of the risks of consolidator tickets--and have nonetheless purchased them because of the significant financial savings I could achieve--50-60% off of the lowest class endorseable ticket is the norm. Generally, when one accepts a risk, there is a corresponding benefit.

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Thank you for that excellent primer on cruise air tickets.

 

Two queries: 1) why do the cruise lines (generally) charge more than market price for a consolidator class ticket? 2) why would anyone pay more than market price for a consolidator class ticket?QUOTE]

 

My answer to question 1 is "because they can". Cruise lines are after all a for-profit enterprise. This is the same reason they charge you $7 for a drink that only has $1 worth of alochol in it. Because they can.

 

For question 2, I believe it come to ignorance and the thinking that people think cruise lines are looking out for their best interests. In reality, the cruise line is looking out for the cruise line's best interest. As has been mentioned in other posts, consolidator tickets are the "little dirty secret" of the travel trade. Most travelers are not savvy enough to understand the various booking codes & all in air travel. Most people think that there are just three classes of travel - first, business, & coach. In actuality there are several different booking classes in each of those.

 

Getting back to the question of "why would anyone purchase consolidator tickets", that is a good question and one that I personally can't answer as I'd never do such a thing. Some might say "convenience of the cruise line doing their air", but that's the only rationale I can think of.

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Thank you for that excellent primer on cruise air tickets.

 

Two queries: 1) why do the cruise lines (generally) charge more than market price for a consolidator class ticket? 2) why would anyone pay more than market price for a consolidator class ticket?

 

I am fully aware of the risks of consolidator tickets--and have nonetheless purchased them because of the significant financial savings I could achieve--50-60% off of the lowest class endorseable ticket is the norm. Generally, when one accepts a risk, there is a corresponding benefit.

 

1. Because they can would be the flip answer. But the financial reason-cruise lines wrap in transfers in the airline price. So along with all the other downsides to cruise air, you have to figure out whether you are even close on pricing by pricing out some kind of transfer-be it rental car, taxi, limo or cruise transfer bus.

 

2. Most people are just plain scared to do it on their own. USA citizens are not known for being world travelers. The Europeans and Australians travel ALL the time to foreign countries. We don't. So often times this is the first time they have left USA soil. Kind of scary and intimidating to a lot of people, especially seniors.

 

Most also have no knowledge of the airline industry, how pricing works, what to do if there is a problem, etc. They just know they need to get to the cruise. "Leave it to someone else". And then again, there are a lot of TA's that sell, sell, sell the cruise air idea. They KNOW they don't get commission on airline tickets. But if they can book the full package, then the package is commissionable (sp?).

 

Some are looking for "convenience"-cruise, air, hotel, tours maybe. And most also believe the fallacy that the cruise line will get you to the cruise somehow. What the cruise lines fails to tell pax (except in the fine print) is that you may not board at the first port and may miss some or all of your cruise, you may need a passport to get on a plane to get to your ship, and NO, the cruise line is NOT chartering a plane to fly you there.

 

And last but not least, they BELIEVE the TA/cruise line that there is "qualified" help available 24/7. Yep, someone answers the phone. Late at night on the weekend, that is probably about all that person is qualified for.

 

I am so sad when I hear these stories (and there have been more and more recently). If I treated my perishable freight (often riding on the same plane as a cruise pax) the way cruise lines treats their passengers, I would be out of business in about a month.

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Stack one is LAX/MIA nonstop. 27 request air deviation-nonstop to MIA. Stack one is now down to 3 cards and the 27 pax paid the same price as "regular" cruise air (where you don't know what you are getting until 30-60 days out).
Just one question, please, if I may: Would these 27 pax have had to pay an air deviation fee as well as the airfare?

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Just one question, please, if I may: Would these 27 pax have had to pay an air deviation fee as well as the airfare?

 

Yes-they REQUESTED the nonstop to MIA. They got the nonstop to MIA (and knew the flight details when they booked the cruise and/or air-not 30-60 days pre cruise). Air deviation fee in its purest form.

 

If for some reason the initial group or some of air deviation pax cancel before final payment, those seats are either used for other air deviation pax OR they are passed out to "regular" cruise air pax. Now you see why some people report FANTASTIC experiences with cruise air and some go on a mileage run (too bad most of the tickets don't qualify for mileage).

 

Just to make this even more complicated-If no one requested air deviation, all 30 nonstop to MIA tickets would have gone to the "regular" cruise air pax on a "first in the computer booking" basis. I do NOT know how the booking priority works-is it first come, first served, by alphabetical order, because you booked with the cruise line or a TA that is the top seller of your cruise line's brand???

 

We have another perishable industry meeting in May with all the airlines that carry perishables present. I will put that in my brain to ask that question. I would be interested to know.

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Yes-they REQUESTED the nonstop to MIA. They got the nonstop to MIA (and knew the flight details when they booked the cruise and/or air-not 30-60 days pre cruise). Air deviation fee in its purest form.
Thanks! Just have no real idea how air deviation works in the US. Fortunately, the only cruise line that I have done fly-cruises with (NCL) has always allowed me to just pick exactly which flights I want at the normal UK package price with no extra charges or fees.

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If I cross paths with anyone at the Freddie's who might be involved with cruise-air, I'll ask the questions as well.

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Please, moderators, sticky this thread. Greatam has pulled away the curtain to reveal how the great and powerful wizard of cruise air actually functions.

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Most also have no knowledge of the airline industry, how pricing works, what to do if there is a problem, etc. They just know they need to get to the cruise. "Leave it to someone else". And then again, there are a lot of TA's that sell, sell, sell the cruise air idea. They KNOW they don't get commission on airline tickets. But if they can book the full package, then the package is commissionable (sp?).

 

I know that I'm very ignorant in cruiseline/airline/TA relationships, but when we booked our flights for our upcoming cruise our TA charged us a fee for the flight ticket portion of the cruise. The tickets were issued by the airlines. I believe the fee totaled $25 dollars for the pair. Is this not an industry standard or have I had my head in the sand too long?

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Most also have no knowledge of the airline industry, how pricing works, what to do if there is a problem, etc. They just know they need to get to the cruise. "Leave it to someone else". And then again, there are a lot of TA's that sell, sell, sell the cruise air idea. They KNOW they don't get commission on airline tickets. But if they can book the full package, then the package is commissionable (sp?).

 

I know that I'm very ignorant in cruiseline/airline/TA relationships, but when we booked our flights for our upcoming cruise our TA charged us a fee for the flight ticket portion of the cruise. The tickets were issued by the airlines. I believe the fee totaled $25 dollars for the pair. Is this not an industry standard or have I had my head in the sand too long?

 

Sounds like your TA purchased direct through the airlines, where there is a fee that is pretty standard in the industry. If you agent purchased the cruiseline air for you, there should be no fee. (Unless you do an air deviation)

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Many TA's charge a service fee for purchasing air tickets, since the airlines for the most part don't pay commission anymore. Some forego the service fee when you book a large package like a cruise.

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I know that this doesn't have anything to do with the cruise air explaination (which was very good by the way if someone like me could even grasp it...:) ) but if a TA charges a fee to book your airline tickets, then why would they push cruise air? Is the commission that large? One would think that if they sit down with a client and explain the options that that would go along way to securing repeat business.... IMO

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greatam,

 

thanks for taking the time to write this informative post!

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I know that this doesn't have anything to do with the cruise air explaination (which was very good by the way if someone like me could even grasp it...:) ) but if a TA charges a fee to book your airline tickets, then why would they push cruise air? Is the commission that large? One would think that if they sit down with a client and explain the options that that would go along way to securing repeat business.... IMO

 

The fee for booking tickets directly through an airline is usually about $25.00. Don't quote me on this, but commission is usually in the neighborhood of 10-15%. Varies with travel agency and varies with the status of the agent, but my own local travel agency that is owned by a friend averages about 12% on all travel EXCEPT air.

 

Quite a bit more money to be made as a package deal than just a $25.00 fee for air tickets. And most people DO NOT pay a travel agent to book airline tickets through the airline, except for complicated itineraries. You really don't need a TA to book an airline ticket from Boston to Miami.

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Currently, I am booked on a transatlantic cruise with air added on the price. The price that has been quoted to me (one way to Rome) is cheaper than what I can find independently ,of course, they have added the fact about the transfer from the airport etc. Is this too good to be true? Am I going to find myself in the worse seat on the plane? Should I expect the long way around from Miami to Rome? All comments welcomed.

 

Thanks,

Susan

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The fee for booking tickets directly through an airline is usually about $25.00. Don't quote me on this, but commission is usually in the neighborhood of 10-15%. Varies with travel agency and varies with the status of the agent, but my own local travel agency that is owned by a friend averages about 12% on all travel EXCEPT air.

 

Quite a bit more money to be made as a package deal than just a $25.00 fee for air tickets. And most people DO NOT pay a travel agent to book airline tickets through the airline, except for complicated itineraries. You really don't need a TA to book an airline ticket from Boston to Miami.

 

The average service fee for airline tickets booked through a TA is $25 though I have seen it as high as $50 and there are some that charge a percentage. Although a travel agency may make 10-17% on the cruise fare portion of a cruise, the cruise lines usually only pay 5% on the air (base price not including taxes or PFC's). On a $300 ticket, the TA makes $15. In our office we always compare cruise air to published air prices. Published air is not always the cheapest. When a client books a cruise and published air, we usually discount our service fee.

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Currently, I am booked on a transatlantic cruise with air added on the price. The price that has been quoted to me (one way to Rome) is cheaper than what I can find independently ,of course, they have added the fact about the transfer from the airport etc. Is this too good to be true? Am I going to find myself in the worse seat on the plane? Should I expect the long way around from Miami to Rome? All comments welcomed.

 

Since the cruise lines contract with the airlines for the flights, they can get cheaper one way flights than you can. I would suspect that you will have one connection between MIA and FCO. Depending on the cruise line, they will assign your flight 30 to 90 days in advance. Call your TA or the cruise line at the 90, 60 and 30 day marks to find out your flight. If you used a TA, they should check on seat assignment. If you used the cruise line, you have to do the checking.

 

I have a couple sailing from Barcelona at the end of June on Royal Caribbean. At the end of March (90 days), I had their air itinerary, discussed it with them and locked it in. They are being charged $1100 per person including transfers. The best price I found for them was $1100 and they would need to add transfers. The flights that are assigned for them are pricing at $2300 per person if I sell those flights. Their times are excellent and connections very good.

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Since the cruise lines contract with the airlines for the flights, they can get cheaper one way flights than you can.

 

I have asked this question of my AA rep. Only occasionally do the cruise lines purchase true one way air from the airlines. What they REALLY do-Airline contract allows the cruise line to purchase round trip tickets at a higher fare than what independently booked RT's would cost. This is especially true for open jaw, European cruises.

 

They then sell only 1/2 of the ticket to the outbound pax and 1/2 to the inbound pax. Makes it a bargain for one way pax and the airline reaps more money than they normally would on the RT ticket. The cruise line is essentially guaranteeing the planes fly full (or nearly) on cruise days. I don't know exactly how they do the ticketing, but I would assume the airline allows the cruise line to issue the tickets as if they were one ways ONLY.

 

I will ask how the ticketing is handled in May.

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Just wanted to say thanks again for creating this thread; I refer to it so often I wish it were made into a STICKY for this forum.

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Just wanted to say thanks again for creating this thread; I refer to it so often I wish it were made into a STICKY for this forum.

 

You are more than welcome. Glad my 30 years of knowledge in global logistics is helpful to more than me (it sure seems that way in my offices-my two MBA's are ALWAYS trying to impart knowledge they learned in books. They find out VERY rapidly that most of it doesn't work in a real time transportation environment).

 

As an aside-my two MBA's spent a long time making up matrix to load our trailers more efficiently. We haul LTL (less than truckload) so one truck may pick up 10 pallets of xxx product, but that product needs to be distributed to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland. We would split up the product on Friday nights at our warehouse in the Bronx into 3 trucks-Southern California, Northern California and the Northwest.

 

Using the matrix (I actually allowed them to try it for two Fridays), the first Friday night, we had either too few trucks or or the wrong trucks to haul the product. Trucks were parked all over, drivers were FURIOUS. So I put the two of them on a plane to NYC to oversee their project.

 

They incurred the wrath of the drivers and warehouse guys. They kept pointing to their carefully diagrammed load matrix. It just wasn't working. After a very frustrating night (I was home fielding phone calls from drivers), they finally decided that maybe 30 years of "been there, done that" and being flexible is worth at least as much as MBA "book learning". We all get a good laugh when they come up with another MBA idea.

 

Moving people on planes is no different than freight. In fact, people are easier-they have less paperwork.

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Moving people on planes is no different than freight. In fact, people are easier-they have less paperwork.

And passengers are sometimes referred to as SLF - Self Loading Freight.

 

I echo the sentiments about stickies in this forum. Only one here...a 17 month old article that encompassed a bunch of speculation and prognostication.

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I just emailed HostMike with a formal request for a STICKY on this.

 

Greatam-Thanks for the great laugh for the afternoon with your MBA story.

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