What is an IATA number?
An IATA number is a number or code given by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to member airlines and travel agencies. IATA is a global organization representing about 230 airlines and is also involved with accreditation of travel professionals and freight forwarders. Each IATA number is unique to your airline or agency and is composed of eight (8) numeric digits. For travel agents, one must be a member of IATAN or International Airlines Travel Agent Network to get an IATA number.
IATA numbers are like accreditation numbers for travel agencies. The number sorts of distinguishes or identifies them from some illegitimate and non-members of IATAN. Having an IATA number allows agencies to sell airline tickets. But since membership is required, new and independent contractors usually resort to “renting” IATA numbers of legit and IATAN-member agencies. The process involves the independent contractor to somewhat “borrow” an IATA number from a “host” agency for a fee. Fees may be in the form of upfront payments by the contractor or through commissions from actual tickets sold. In this way, the independent contractors, like home-based travel agents, will appear to be legit and they will have all the benefits of an IATAN member, including booking airline tickets.
But overall, it is still best to have accreditation from IATA and have your own IATA number. With your own IATA number, industry players and consumers will see you as legitimate and professional. You also get more visibility as you get listed in various electronic products subscribed by suppliers. Member agencies will also have access to a global network of industry players and suppliers. As members, you may also be given the chance to have scholarships for certificate programs in travel, tourism, and hospitality. And more importantly, having an IATA number will provide travel agencies with global and customer recognition.