Enterprise pulls cars from Orbitz after dispute

Enterprise Holdings, which owns and operates the largest fleet of rental cars in the world under the Alamo Rent A Car, National Car Rental, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car brands, will announce tomorrow that it is ending its relationship with Orbitz.com and its sister site CheapTickets.com on April 1 after “months of difficult discussions.” I asked Pam Nicholson, the president and chief operating officer of Enterprise Holdings, to explain the decision and what it means to travelers.

Why are you removing your inventory from Orbitz?

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.
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Orbitz vs. American Airlines: The traveler is the loser

Maybe you’ve heard about the little dust-up between American Airlines and several online travel agencies, including Orbitz and Expedia.

Maybe you’ve noticed that when you go fare-shopping on those travel sites, you aren’t offered any American flights.

Maybe you’ve said to yourself, “So what?”

“It’s really an inside baseball kind of story,” admits William Swelbar, a research engineer in MIT’s International Center for Air Transportation.

But not so fast. Yes, the intramural spat between airlines and travel agencies may seem irrelevant, but there’s a lot at stake. The future of how you buy airline tickets could hang in the balance.
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Can this trip be saved? My 17-year-old booked a ticket on Orbitz — actually, two tickets

Booking a flight online may be convenient, but it’s far from problem-free. Just ask Charles Bornheim, whose son is holding an extra airline ticket he booked through Orbitz.

Bornheim is trying to get a refund, but is having no luck. Airlines can be pretty unforgiving with their refund policies, and at some point when you’re booking online, you have to take responsibility for your own actions.

But is this a case where no one is really to blame — and should I try to help him secure a refund?
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And the online travel agency with the most complaints is …

Expedia. That’s according to a survey of my authoritative email “in” box, which contains seven years of complaint data from travelers. Coming in second? Travelocity, followed by Orbitz.

Alright, my methods may not be completely scientific (after all, my email contains all of my correspondence, not just complaints) but it’s a pretty good indicator.
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Why haven’t I been charged for my honeymoon flight?

Here’s a question that came to me by way of the Monday afternoon Washington Post chat on travel (and by the way, if you haven’t dropped in to ask a question, please do). Karen Luong booked her honeymoon flights from Baltimore to Naples, Italy through Orbitz in mid-June. She received reservation number from the online agency, but hasn’t been charged yet.

How can she be sure she has a ticket?

This is a question that’s come up a time or two. What, exactly, is a ticket? Is it a record locator? A ticket number? A reservation number for your online travel agency?
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Oops! I didn’t mean to buy insurance

Question: I recently booked a flight through Orbitz, and a few weeks later was surprised to see a $24 charge on my credit card for travel insurance. I called the 800 number listed next to the charge on my statement and was told that the charge was through a company that works with Orbitz to provide travel insurance.

I checked the Orbitz site and discovered that they sneakily default a checkbox on your online reservation to include travel insurance — in other words, you need to actively uncheck this or else you will buy the insurance.

Of course, I didn’t notice this on my recent online flight reservation. And I’ve used Orbitz many times before, and have never unchecked anything and have never been charged. So obviously this is a new revenue-generating scheme. And it is very underhanded. I contacted Orbitz and the insurance company, without resolution. Each blamed the other entity. Can you help? — Gary Kawesch, Los Gatos, Calif.

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.
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Orbitz calls “reprehensible” opt-out policy an industry standard

Let me start by saying that I like Orbitz. I like its new CEO, Barney Harford. I like the hard-working folks in its customer service department. I like the way it uses technology to improve your trip.

But I do not like the way it pre-checks the option to buy travel insurance when you’re booking a trip, and I don’t buy its arguments for doing it. Neither does Joyce Carlson, who recently bought a trip through the online travel agency.
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Wacky package price blamed on “anomaly” in program

When you buy a travel package through an online travel agency, you expect the price to be significantly less than if you booked each item separately, right?

So did Thao Tran when he was shopping for a trip to Chicago on Orbitz. But just for kicks, he asked for a price quote for the hotel and airfare.

Shockingly, the a la carte price was less than the package rate.

What the …?
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If British Airways strikes, will anyone fall into the “codeshare gap”?

ba3Looks like British Airways may be shut down by a strike — just in time for the holidays. I’ll let the beat reporters dissect this story, but there’s one angle that appears to be getting overlooked: What’s going to happen to passengers with “codeshare” reservations?

Codesharing the practice of selling seats on another airline but claiming them as your own. The problem is, there are passengers with seats on one airline that are actually booked on a British Airways flight. (Codesharing arrangements must be disclosed by law, but who pays attention to the fine print in a reservation?)
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Travelocity offers an “unprecedented” new price guarantee — should I switch online agencies?

bills2If you’re confused about the online travel agencies’ service and price guarantees, take a number. So am I.

After this morning’s announcement that Travelocity would make an “unprecedented” addition to its so-called Travelocity Price and Service Guarantee, I’m more befuddled than before. Even reading Dennis Schaal’s insightful analysis of the news, and its provocative kicker (“Orbitz, now it’s your move) leaves me scratching my head.

Service and price guarantees are seductive lures for online shoppers. But in my experience, they’re either so vaguely-worded that a successful claim is close to impossible, or they come with so much fine print that even an army of lawyers can’t take advantage of them.

Is this more of the same? How does this guarantee differ from those offered by Expedia and Orbitz? And should you consider switching to Travelocity?
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Booking an airline ticket online for the holidays? Read this first

stockholmHere’s a cautionary tale for anyone buying an airline ticket for the holidays, and a little advice: Pay attention your bank account balance. And be patient.

Kelly Lukanen, can I hear an “amen”?

Lukanen recently tried to book a ticket from Minneapolis to Stockholm on Orbitz. Not only did the initial purchase fail, but she found $835 of her hard-earned money tied up in a mysterious transaction.
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Orbitz’ Harford: Quoting a total price is “a strategic priority for us”

Barney OrbitzBarney 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.
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“If these aren’t tickets then how did I get out here?”

moroccoPicture this: You’re on your honeymoon in Morocco. When you check in for your flight back to the States, a gate agent insists there’s something wrong with your reservation — and forces you to buy a new set of tickets.

It happened to Elliot Pederson. But that wasn’t the worst part of it. After returning home, neither his airline nor the online travel agency that sold him the original ticket, would take responsibility for the problem, sticking him with a $2,103 bill.

What now?
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