You’ve booked your tour, the departure is confirmed, and now you’re ready to purchase flights for your upcoming international bicycle tour. While ExperiencePlus! provides a range of traveler planning services to anyone taking a Classic, Bike and Boat, or Expedition-style tour, we don’t make flight arrangements.
The task of finding a great flight can make your head spin, whether you prefer to use an online travel agency – think Booking.com or Expedia.com, or spread your efforts across search tools that aggregate results – our favorite is Rome2Rio.com, or if you prefer to book with miles/points, or engage a travel advisor.
For 10 years, ExperiencePlus! has helped our travelers simplify this major task by referring them to Exito Travel, an airfare travel management company that has been in business for 30 years. We recently interviewed Lucas Studer, Exito’s director of business development, so we could better understand the services they provide and how they differ from all the other kids on the block. We also learned a fun fact about the company name.
EP: What services does Exito offer?
Lucas: One side of our business works with traditional brick-and-mortar travel agencies that still book their own air, they just may not have the airline contracts to earn commissions, so they piggyback off ours. The other side of the business is a full-service air desk to the tour industry. Our partners, such as ExperiencePlus!, understand that airfare is vital to their trips, and they look to Exito as a trusted resource to handle their clients’ flight arrangements. We’re like an air travel concierge.
EP: What does your ‘full-service air desk’ provide?
Lucas: Our Flight Specialists work one-on-one with guests from the moment an inquiry is received all the way until they arrive home after the trip. We understand airfare and how to book multiple airlines on one ticket to ensure the best price, luggage allowance, and protection in cases of irregular operations.
Another layer of support is our After-Hours Team who is available 24/7 by phone, email, and WhatsApp chat to coach travelers and partners in cases of irregular operations. Whether it’s specifying which flight to ask the airport agent to book or issuing a brand-new ticket, this team is available to help our mutual travelers get where they need to be when they need to be there.
Behind the scenes, our Operations Team reviews each one of the tens of thousands of schedule changes we receive from airlines annually. They assess the severity and coordinate with our partners, such as ExperiencePlus!, to ensure the changes won’t affect the land operations. If they do, we’ll work with the airlines to find a suitable alternative.
EP: Do you charge a fee?
Lucas: There is no cost to use our services leading up to a booking. Once you book your flights for a trip, we charge a $50 per person fee, regardless of how many tickets you need. So, if four people travel together, the total charge is $200. For certain airlines with limited support structure, the fee is $75 per person. We will make clear during the process if this higher fee applies, and explain why. Regardless, we regularly hear from travelers that the level of service we provide is well worth the fee.
EP: What if a traveler needs to change flights once a booking is made?
Lucas: If a traveler comes back needing to change the dates or routes of an already booked flight, then we charge an additional $50 voluntary change fee. However, we do not charge a fee for involuntary changes that require tickets be reissued, such as when an airline cancels a flight.
EP: So just to clarify, is there any obligation to purchase flights through Exito once a Flight Specialist generates itinerary options?
Lucas: Not at all. We know that customers are typically looking for the best deal, but we also caution international travelers to think through all the hidden costs and barriers that low-cost fares often generate, from non-refundable tickets to extra baggage fees and weight and size restrictions. The bottom line is that we provide a level of service you won’t get with an online travel agency (OTA). You can connect with a real person 24/7 for assistance during any part of your journey.
EP: Do you have to be booked on an ExperiencePlus! tour in order to use Exito?
EP: What are the differences between a flight consolidator, online travel agency (OTA) and Exito?
Lucas: While Exito does have a consolidator service model, this is only offered to our brick-and-mortar partners that are still booking and managing their own reservations. In that sense, they’re the ones that are managing the entire post-sale service. However, travelers that do find a consolidator to book through, will typically receive little to no service after the sale. Any support they need will have to be obtained directly through the airline. OTAs offer a similar level of service as consolidators where travelers have to deal with the airlines themselves for any post-sale support — the difference being that consolidators may have “unpublished” fares that could be discounted and/or offer different terms and conditions. Our full-service air desk service model, which is what ExperiencePlus!’ clients receive, means that our team manages all post-sale support so that the travelers don’t have to. So, our service, experience and understanding of the industry really help set us apart.
EP: Our customers often ask us how soon before their tour they should book their flights. Do you all have any recommendations?
Lucas: Most airlines post their flights 11 months out. Checking prices right when flights become available usually doesn’t result in the lowest fares. Airlines will first look at demand to then determine what they do with their fares and inventory. Usually around 6-9 months before departure is when you’ll see the lowest inventory available. We can also look at how many seats are occupied on a flight to help gauge whether an airline is holding onto their less expensive inventory. If the flight is empty and we only see mid- to high-level inventory, it’s probably safe to say that they’re holding inventory back.
EP: ExperiencePlus! recently joined Exito’s Planet Care Pledge. What does this mean to customers who book their flights through Exito?
Lucas: When you book with Exito, we offset 100% of the carbon footprint your air travel creates by investing in a mixed portfolio of certified carbon reduction projects that Sustainable Travel International advises. We’re currently the only travel management company that proactively offsets traveler flights.
EP: We’re excited to see where this goes. We hope it’s a success.
Lucas: Exactly. In fact, that’s what our name means. We started in Latin America, focusing on language program students in need of land and air travel packages. “Exito” is Spanish for “success!”.
Book your next flight with Exito
If you’d like to explore booking your next flight with Exito – whether or not you’re traveling with ExperiencePlus – you can contact Exito in the following ways:
- For flight assistance related to an ExperiencePlus! tour, email our travel planning team at email@example.com. We’ll gather travel details from you, forward your request, and Exito will follow-up with you directly.
- Submit this online request form directly to Exito, even for flights not connected to an ExperiencePlus trip.
- Email Exit0 directly through our affiliate address: firstname.lastname@example.org.