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.
Turkey, Greece: Used by a large community of ethnic Turkish and Kurdish residents of the Northeast, New York City's Anadolu Travel (800/262-3658 or 212/486-4012, atc-anadolu.com) has contracts with Turkish Airways (an American Airlines partner), for whom it's an active consolidator on flights to Istanbul and via Istanbul to other nearby capitals.
Western European capitals:Destination Europe, of Portland, Maine (800/359-3876 or 207/842-2000, autoeurope.com), is the air-ticket affiliate of the well-known car rental consolidator Auto Europe, so one call can get you both air and a vehicle.
Caribbean, Central & South America
Brazil: Steve Foster's Brazilian mother became one of the first consolidators to South America some 39 years ago when she founded Brazil Tours of Sherman Oaks, California (800/927-8352 or 818/990-4995, braziltours.net). It also has both organized and customized tours, including an Amazon River trip with a guide who teaches jungle survival techniques to the Brazilian Army.
Brazil primarily, but also to other nations in Latin America: Brazilian Travel Service of New York City (800/342-5746 or 212/764-6161) also has offices in Rio and Sao Paulo and is obviously a major player to its namesake nation. The agency, in business for 26 years, claims also to be one of the largest consolidators to other Central and South American nations.
Dominican Republic: TravelSpan, of New York City (where it has three offices in West Indian neighborhoods) and Santo Domingo (800/817-6177 or 212/268-4632, travelspan.com), is big enough to occasionally charter its own low-cost flights to Santo Domingo and Trinidad, in addition to offering major discounts on scheduled flights of big international carriers. It also operates flights to Mexico's Cancun as well.
Latin America in general: G.T. Tours of Coral Gables, Florida (800/666-8687 or 305/445-9600, ecuador-si.com, has contract fares with several airlines (even one that claims it does not normally work with consolidators) that serve Latin America, including Peru, Ecuador, and Venezuela, all from Miami.
Trinidad and Guyana: Sandra's Travel (718/848-3500) has one office in Trinidad and another in a West Indian neighborhood in New York. Although it offers discounts on several airlines flying to Caribbean locations, its best prices are on regularly scheduled charters flown there on BWIA West Indies Airways, World Airways, and other carriers.
China, Korea, and Vietnam: Far Eastern Travel International, of New York City (800/275-3384 or 212/532-8866, feti.com) is primarily a consolidator for China, EVA, and Korean Airlines, but occasionally for discount tickets on U.S. airlines too.
India: India Omni Travel (503/643-0104) primarily services a large Indian and East Asian community clustered about a large Microsoft facility in Beaverton, Oregon. Again to India, especially from New York Hari World Travel (888/889-2968 or 212/997-3300, hariworld.com) is a big agency that started nearly 25 years ago in Canada to serve the Indian community there, and is now based in New York City.
Korea, Vietnam, and the Philippines: At Associates Travel (800/831-3108 or 206/621-9200) in the suburbs of Seattle, personnel speak a variety of Asian languages, including Japanese, Vietnamese, and Tagalog, and are consolidators for more than a half-dozen Asian-flag airlines.
Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, and Singapore: Travelinks, of Washington, D.C. (800/238-8397 or 202/293-7090, travelinksinc.com), is a longtime consolidator for Malaysia Airlines.
Kuala Lumpur:Malaysia Travel of Carbondale, Illinois (888/358-8655 or 618/453-2113, emalaysiatravel.com), began 20 years ago as a discounter for student travelers, and its American owner spends part of each year in the key country he serves. A consolidator for Malaysia Airlines, he offers terrific year-round prices (except during holidays).
Seoul or Hong Kong: Boston's Korea Travel & Tours (800/473-1922 or 617/267-7777, firstname.lastname@example.org) specializes in one country (Korea, and in flights from Korea to Hong Kong) and has contract fares with several Asian and North American airlines.
Middle East, Isreal & Africa
Middle East: Servicing one of the largest Middle Eastern communities in America, in suburban Southfield, Michigan, outside Detroit, consolidator American Center Travel (800/356-1030 or 248/350-1030, email@example.com) boasts contract fares with several carriers flying to cities in the Middle East, and Africa too.
South Africa and other nations in southern Africa: Karell's African Dream Vacations, of Coral Gables, Florida (800/327-0373 or 305/446-7766, karell.com), is a major consolidator for South African Airways.
South Africa from either U.S. coast: Air Centre, part of African Travel in Glendale, California (800/727-7207 or 818/507-7893, africantravelinc.com), was founded in South Africa 31 years ago and opened in the United States five years later; it has offices both here and in Cape Town and contracts with several international airlines that service South Africa. A bonus: The agency supplies all clients with free cell phones for use in Africa.