With Alamo and National on the Orbitz site for the last 10 years, we thought it only made sense to work with them to add our flagship brand, Enterprise, as well. However, after several months of good-faith negotiations with Orbitz, we are discontinuing our efforts.
Answer: Orbitz shouldn’t have pre-checked a box that forced you to buy travel insurance. And it should have removed the charge immediately when you asked about it — not passed you off to the insurance company.
Barney Harford is the president and chief executive officer of Orbitz Worldwide. One of the first things he did when he took over eight months ago was to institute a “total” price for hotel rooms, making it the first of the major online travel agencies to do so. He also launched a campaign to lift travel restrictions to Cuba imposed by the American government during the Cold War. I asked Harford why he decided to take on prices and politics so early in his tenure.
Your company is pushing the government to lift travel restrictions to Cuba with a new site called Open Cuba. Why is this issue important to you? Why should it be important to travelers?
We believe it’s important to be engaged in the social issues of the day. We promoted lesbian and gay travel as far back as 2002. We were on the cutting edge of eco-tourism.
The management team and I shared a belief that after 50 years of ban on travel to Cuba [by Americans] it was time for a change. It doesn’t make sense for Americans to not have a right to travel to a country that is so close. Travel can bring people together. We believe there’s an immense opportunity to bring people together, to create progress.
We have urged people to sign a petition to overturn the ban on travel to Cuba. We’ve had about 95,000 people sign it. There’s broad, grassroots support that’s been indicated on this issues. We hope to be able to play an important role in removing the ban.