What is a Validating Carrier?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

In airline speak, a validating carrier is the airline that actually issues you a ticket and holds your money until you take your flight. These carriers then reimburse all airlines that you use during your trip. It’s especially important to understand that the validating carrier is not always the airline on which you are flying, especially if you use multiple airlines in a single trip. You also may not know who your validating carrier is if you book through an online travel company, or with a travel agent. You can ask, however, which can help you make up your mind regarding which agent or service to use.

An airline that issues a passenger a ticket and holds their money until they take a flight is referred to as a validating carrier.
An airline that issues a passenger a ticket and holds their money until they take a flight is referred to as a validating carrier.

A number of consumers want to know why understanding who the validating carrier is, would be important. Actually it may be vital, especially in economic times where not all airlines are solvent. If you need to get a refund from the validating carrier, and the company goes bankrupt, you may be out of luck. Alternately, the solvent carrier may take your money and issue tickets for all the airlines, but gives you credit only, which can only be used on airline with which it has a contract. This might limit the degree to which you can travel with your refund credit.

The airline that actually operates a given flight is referred to as the operating carrier.
The airline that actually operates a given flight is referred to as the operating carrier.

Validating carriers are often chosen by travel agents and agencies based on the percentage of commission offered. If a travel agent will get better commissions and perks from one validating carrier over another, they’re likely to choose it to book a flight. This choice may not be in the best interest of the consumer, if the airline is in financial trouble and may cease operation very soon.

Just as a general rule, it’s a good idea to find out who your validating carrier is when you book a flight. If the carrier is a company that is in financial trouble, and you’re booking a flight well in advance, you may want to ask the travel agent to provide you with a different validating carrier. It’s also a good idea to know if you have to get a refund or change your plans, because the company you will want to speak with will be this carrier.

These carriers also have limits in terms of which other airlines they will work with. This may be another important consideration when you book trips using multiple airlines. You may have additional airline options available to you by using one carrier over another, or by using more than one.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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