Bucket shops sprung up in the 1970's with the appearance of the Boeing 747. The bigger Boeings meant more seats (buckets), which could equal more money if they were filled. Bucket shops negotiate ticket deals with the airlines, then they sell these discounted tickets to travel agencies and sometimes directly to the public. If you're looking for the cheapest deal on international flights, then buying your tickets from a bucket shop can save you big.
Decide what your international destination is, then search the Sunday editions of newspapers like the Miami Herald, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times. In the Travel section, you're sure to find ads for cheap international airline tickets sold by bucket shops.
Perform a search on the Internet if you haven't got access to any big-city newspapers. Key "Airline Ticket Consolidators" into your favorite search engine, and you'll come up with a list.
Ask family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers for references of bucket shops that they've dealt with successfully. But don't only go by "word-of-mouth" to find a reputable company.
Contact at least four or five different bucket shops so you can compare their prices and terms.
You'll probably be more comfortable dealing with a business that you've heard of, such as Travelocity.com or Expedia.com, but don't overlook places like Onetravel.com or Lowestfare.com.
Look for bucket shops within the U.S. that are commissioned by the Airline Reporting Corporation (ARC) (www.arccorp.com). Bucket shops that are located outside of the U.S. should be authenticated by The International Airline Travel Agents' Network (IATAN) (www.iatan.org/welcome).
Check out the validity and the track record of any airline ticket consolidator with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org).
Ask about the ticket prices for your destinations, and don't forget to inquire about additional "hidden costs" such as fees, taxes and other charges. Ask the bucket shop representative for a total charge for the airline ticket including any applicable charges.
Don't fall for the line that "we guarantee the lowest fare." This only means that the price quoted to you is lower than the fares published by the airlines, which are the highest.
To ensure that you'll get a refund in case the transaction turns sour--such as you don't actually receive your airline tickets--pay for the tickets with your credit card. The consolidator may tack on a surcharge for using your card, but at least you'll have a better chance getting your money back, if necessary.
Once you receive the tickets, call your airline directly to be sure that you do indeed have confirmed reservations.
Bucket shops specialize in international flights, but they also offer lower rates on flights within North America.
Don't be afraid to order your discounted airline tickets from abroad. The Internet has brought the world closer together, and your tickets can safely be delivered to you in a number of ways.
Don't forget to ask for student rates, senior citizen discounts and any other money-savers that are available when you ask about ticket fares.
Buy airline tickets from a bucket shop and you can actually save approximately 30 to 40 percent.
Travel agencies and airlines are not good sources for finding bucket shops, since they're actually competitors. Discounted tickets don't qualify for frequent flyer miles and other perks that airlines give their passengers.