In a surprise move, 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, announced it will end its relationship with Orbitz.com and its sister site, CheapTickets.com. The move takes effect on Friday, April 1, and comes after months of difficult discussions, Enterprise said.
“We are ending our negotiations with Orbitz following their decision to de-list National and Alamo, and insist on unacceptably high commission rates from our Enterprise brand,” said Pam Nicholson, president and chief operating officer of Enterprise Holdings. “Alamo and National brands have been listed on Orbitz since 2001. Enterprise Holdings – which acquired Alamo and National in 2007 – had been in negotiations to add its flagship brand to the Orbitz site when it was informed of Orbitz’s decision to remove both National and Alamo and accept only Enterprise.
“Through our many decades of serving customers in this industry, we have learned it is difficult to fully meet the changing transportation needs of consumers with only one brand,” said Nicholson.
“As a result, following our purchase of Alamo and National almost four years ago, we consciously decided to maintain three separate rental car brands, each with a unique service offering.”
Laura Bryant, an Enterprise Holdings spokesperson, told Travel Agent that it was imperative for Enterprise to control rates offered on all online travel agencies (OTAs) and stressed the consumer impact of Orbitz policy. She declined to say how much business was generated by the Orbitz relationship.
Alamo is a leisure brand known for offering discounts to deal-shopping customers. National is a brand preferred by business travelers and other frequent renters. Enterprise, the largest car rental brand in North America, is available both at the airport and outside of the airport, and has the largest network of locations in the industry. Across all three brands, Enterprise Holdings and its regional subsidiaries own and operate nearly one million vehicles, which constitute the world’s largest fleet of passenger vehicles.
“We realize our role as the industry leader comes with a responsibility to keep our product affordable and to aggressively advocate for the rights of consumers,” Nicholson said. “For example, we lead our industry in the fight to curtail excise taxes that unfairly single out rental car customers. Today, rental car taxes account for as much as 20 percent of the cost in many markets, placing our industry’s customers among the highest taxed in the U.S.”
“These escalating taxes, combined with unacceptable commission costs imposed by third parties such as Orbitz, mean more and more consumers no longer will be able to afford to rent a vehicle,” Nicholson said. “We believe the stance being taken by Orbitz violates the best interests of consumers, our company and our industry. While we would have preferred a different outcome, effective April 1, none of Enterprise Holdings’ three brands will be listed on Orbitz.com or CheapTickets.com.”
Enterprise Holdings’ three car rental brands may still be booked directly online at www.alamo.com, www.enterprise.com and www.nationalcar.com, or through various other third parties such as travel agencies or online sites including Travelocity and Kayak.
Enterprise urged consumers to learn more about how Enterprise Holdings is responding to Orbitz’s efforts at www.DrivingFutures.com/Blog.
Lee Broughton, Enterprise Holdings director of corporate sustainability, said online: “You may hear some chatter in the next few days about Enterprise’s decision to end our relationship with Orbitz. I just wanted to take a moment to explain why.”
“We’ve tried hard to look out for our customers’ interests on a number of issues. Whether it’s standing up against excise taxes that unfairly target the folks who rent our cars … or setting a new, industry-leading refueling policy … it’s just part of being a responsible and sustainable company. So, when Orbitz pushed us too far, we had to respond.”
“We were negotiating with them to list Enterprise Rent-A-Car along with our company’s sister brands, Alamo Rent A Car and National Car Rental, so that all three would be available for consumers to consider on Orbitz’s site. Orbitz wanted to kick Alamo and National off the site, replace them with Enterprise and, to top it off, insist on unacceptable high commission rates from our Enterprise brand,” Broughton said.
“So, instead of giving consumers selection and value, Orbitz was trying to limit the rental car options being offered. As it stands today, rental car customers have to pay taxes as high as 20 percent in some markets in the U.S. Paying unacceptably high commissions to Orbitz will only make rental costs even higher.”
“We certainly want to keep working with online travel agencies where it makes sense for our customers and our business. In the case of Orbitz, we just had to say, “Enough!” At the end of the day, consumers would have been the losers if we hadn’t responded this way,” Broughton said, concluding with the question, “Do you think Orbitz can offer consumers a fair comparison of options and pricing if it doesn’t list all major rental car companies?"
Read more about Orbitz' response to Enterprise here.