The International Airfare Specialists
Go to the companies (normally, ethnic agents) that sell tickets to only a single area, and deal with only one or two airlines
Airfare consolidators (a fancy name for discounters) differ in their ambitions: Some of them sell to the entire world. They claim to have deals to just about everywhere in the United States and abroad, and on dozens of airlines. But other, more modest consolidators (and we prefer using these smaller firms) specialize in just two or three countries and usually have quietly exclusive contracts with just one or two airlines flying to those few locations, at lower-than-usual rates. Most are located in the midst of large ethnic communities in the United States and mainly sell tickets to fellow countrymen traveling back to the homeland. And many of these same ethnic firms also deal with the public at large (a prerequisite for a mention in this article), and their agents speak English over the phone (another prerequisite).
We've ferreted out the names and claims of 24 such specialist discounters (it wasn't easy; some are hesitant about revealing their special arrangements), and we proudly present their names, contact information, destinations, and typical prices below.
The Baltic nations: Vytis Tours of New York City (800/778-9847 or 718/423-6161, vytistours.com sells reduced-price tickets on five European airlines servicing Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia (plus Poland). Discounts are big. The father and three brothers who own this agency also offer customized tours and discounted hotels.
The British Isles: In business for seven years, UK Air (800/577-2900 or 212/661-0550, ukair.com) works very closely with an airline it can't name (here's a hint: it hubs in London) to deliver discounts of as high as 30% off published rates. As you might guess from the name, its area of expertise is Britain, but can also get terrific deals to many spots on the continent of Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
Croatia: As you'd expect from its name, Croatia Travel Agency, of Astoria, New York (718/726-6700, croatiatravel.com), specializes in that large area of the former Yugoslavia. Under a special arrangement with the airlines involved, it can write tickets for Air France, Virgin Atlantic, and Lufthansa flights on Croatian Airlines ticket stock.
The Czech Republic: Closely partnered with Czech Airlines, Tatra Travel of New York City (212/486-0533 or 800/321-2999, tatratravel.com) offers well-priced airfares and air/hotel packages primarily to Prague, but also to Budapest, Vienna, Zagreb, Sarajevo and Sofia. The agency's Czech arm has been in business since 1932.
Eastern Europe: Manhattan-based American Travel Abroad (800/228-0877 or 212/586-5230, amta.com) has specialized in central and eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union since 1946, and is busier than ever in these post-Cold War years. A consolidator for SAS, Lufthansa, and the new Swiss Air Lines.
Germany, Russia, Africa: New York City's long-established Mill-Run Travel (800/645-5786 or 212/486-9840, millrun.com) is Lufthansa's biggest U.S. consolidator.
Greece and Turkey: A top specialist here is Metro Tours, based in Peabody, Massachusetts (800/221-2810 or 978/535-4000, varsovia.com), which discounts tickets on airlines flying to Athens and Istanbul.
Poland: The Varsovia Agency in New York City (212/529-3256, varsovia.com) is a consolidator for LOT Polish Airlines and other European-flag carriers.
Russia: Flexi World Wide Travel (800/541-3523 or 212/507-9333, fax 212/370-1476) deals with several major carriers, but its consolidator contracts do not allow the sale of air tickets by themselves. Even so, its air/hotel packages are often cheaper than round-trip published fares alone.
Scandinavia: Scandinavia Washington's diplomatic community uses Scantravel International in nearby Virginia (800/283-5023 or 703/281-3355, email@example.com) for cheap flights to and from Scandinavia and Europe.