Choosing A Charter Travel agents receive listings of all charter flights and can book space on any of them. But charters are not a travel agency's favorite kind of business. Because fares are lower, commissions are lower. Charter flights are not computerized, so agents must check them out through brochures and book them over the phone. Since agents must work harder to make less money booking a charter, they tend to be relatively uninformed and negative about them.
If you decide to fly a charter, your best bet is to track it down yourself and have an agent write the ticket. This is more than merely convenient. In some cases of failures by charter carriers or tour operators, tickets purchased through accredited agencies have received priority refunds.
Charters advertise widely during the months preceding flights. Check out local newspapers and the Sunday travel section of the paper in your most convenient gateway city-the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and others.
The following travel agencies handle charters and tours to Southeast Asia:
Abercrombie & Kent International 800-323-7308
ATS Tours 800-423-2880
Brendan Tours 800-421-8446
Collette Tours 800-248-8986
DER Tours 800-937-1235
Fare Deals in Owings Mills, Maryland 800-347-7006 410-581-8787
Jetset Tours, Inc. 800-453-8738
Pacific Delight Tours, Inc. 800-221-7191 212-684-7707
Plymouth Travel in Minneapolis, MN 800-736-8747 612-541-9114,
Tauck Tours 800-468-2825
TBI Tours 800-223-8687
Charters flights are not the best mode of cheap travel. They must be arranged far in advance and their itineraries are relatively inflexible. And while the risk of a failure that leaves you stranded is slight, so too may be the price differential between the charter and the best advance-purchase excursion fares. Unless the charter offers truly dramatic advantages in terms of cost and convenience-and from some destinations on some charters this may well be the case-the greater security, comfort, and flexibility offered by a scheduled service is usually worth the extra money.