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Agents Face Online Price/Service WarJune 2, 2009 By: George Dooley
Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz, powerful online agencies, have annnounced a host of incentives to spark summer travel demand that may add up to good deals for consumers but tough price competition for many agents.
Expedia, for example, announced its biggest hotel sale ever with savings of 30 percent off already low rates at more than 5,000 hotels in over 350 destinations. The program kicks off the summer travel season and is matched by sweeping changes to the company's service policies.
This includes last week’s elimination of online air booking fees, as well as change fees and cancel fees from Expedia.com on all hotel, car rental and cruise reservations and on virtually all flight reservations.
Expedia.com says its customers can book travel with the confidence that if their plans change, Expedia.com won't charge them a fee to change or cancel their reservation. Other online travel agencies charge as much as $30 per person to change or cancel reservations, Expedia said.
Not to be outdone, Travelocity, another online giant counter attacked with offers of up to $600 in savings off select vacation packages, as much as 33 percent in many cases. Travelocity also said it was waiving its flight booking fees and said it was will continue to offer its PriceGuardian program on vacation packages. PriceGuardian offers customers a refund if another consumer books the same vacation package for less on Travelocity.
“We know that the best values and the highest demand in travel today are in vacation packages,” said Victoria Treyger, CMO of Travelocity North America. “That is why we have increased the savings across hundreds of destinations and will continue to offer Travelocity PriceGuardian on vacation packages.”
Typically, travelers save on average $315 when they book the flight, hotel, car rental and activities together versus separately, Travelocity says. With PriceGuardian, when a customer buys a vacation package with Travelocity and another Travelocity customer later books the same vacation package at a lower price before the trip, Travelocity will automatically refund the difference to the customer, from $10 up to $500.
Travelocity will also continue to waive Travelocity booking fees on flights.
Orbitz.com said it has permanently removed airline ticket booking fees on domestic and international flights. This move follows a successful promotional trial that began in April, Ortiz says. By removing flight booking fees and adding the protection of Flight Price Assurance program, Orbitz says it wants to clearly establish itself as the best place for consumers to book their flights online.
Orbitz says it led the industry with the launch of Price Assurance in June of 2008 that assures customers will get the best Orbitz price for their flights. "Orbitz is committed to providing travelers great value and peace of mind," said Barney Harford, president and CEO of Orbitz Worldwide. "We've removed booking fees and added the protection of Flight Price Assurance to deliver unbeatable savings to Orbitz customers."
Last but not least, CheapTickets.com, an Orbitz unit, also says it is has permanently removed booking fees on domestic and international flights – a move that follows a successful promotional trial that began in April.
"CheapTickets customers are true deal seekers and price is the most important factor when booking a trip," said Tom Russell, group vice president for CheapTickets.com. "With the permanent removal of fees, CheapTickets has never been cheaper and there has never been a better time to buy."
CheapTickets customers can also tap into deep savings when they buy their flight and hotel together – dynamic packaging that saves consumers big bucks.