Coming and Going: Travel news and notes

April 1, 2011
Coming & Going

Departing from Orbitz, #airline complaints, Expedia bonus

Orbitz severs more ties

Enterprise Holdings, North America’s largest auto rental brand, and Orbitz have ended their relationship after negotiations for a new contract fell apart.

The breakup means that rentals from the company’s flagship Enterprise Rent-a-Car and its two other brands — Alamo Rent a Car and National Car Rental— will no longer appear on Orbitz and its sister site, CheapTickets.

Enterprise said that it pulled out of Orbitz after the site delisted National and Alamo and raised commission rates for Enterprise rentals.

“Their position greatly limits consumer choice and makes renting a car less affordable. It is also punitive toward rental car brands that have contributed to Orbitz’s success for many years,” said Pam Nicholson, president and chief operating officer of Enterprise Holdings.

Jay Pierce, an Orbitz spokesman, said that the company had decided to replace National and Alamo with Budget Rent a Car and Thrifty Rent a Car.

“Our value proposition remains strong. We continue to have coverage in all markets and options at all price points for our customers,” Pierce said. “The reason we made this decision to replace these two brands was, one, to deliver a better price point to our customers and, two, to have economics that work with our business.”

Orbitz is also embroiled in a dispute with American Airlines, which pulled its flights from Orbitz and CheapTickets last year.

Airlines: How tweet it is

Call, write, scream and cry, and the airlines might still ignore you. But make some noise on Twitter and you may grab their undivided attention.

Who’s the most attentive? According to Airfarewatch.com, JetBlue and United.

The Web site graded six airlines on their responses to passengers’ @complaints as well as the carriers’ tweet extras (twextras?), such as sale fares and weather updates.

JetBlue and United earned A’s for being “quite proactive” (JetBlue) and “the friendliest folks you’ll encounter while dealing with United these days.” Delta and Virgin Atlantic received C’s and should spend more time studying their tweets.

Expedia loves you back

Profess your commitment to Expedia and the site will repay your loyalty — with hotel rooms and flights.

The online travel company recently launched its Expedia Rewards program, which assigns points per dollar spent on the site. For example, book a flight, hotel or activity and earn one point per dollar; reserve a package with air and hotel, get two points. The biggest return (four points) comes with the fully loaded vacation package: hotel, flight, activities and car rental. You can also garner points by booking trips for friends and family, even if you are not invited along.

Points can be redeemed for hotel coupons and, coming soon, flights. Coupons range from $25 (3,500 points) to $100 (10,000 points) to $1,000 (50,000 points).

Sadly, love goes only so far: Expedia sticks you with the taxes and fees. Info: www.expedia.com.

Travel ticker

Spirit Airlines has again broken with the industry norm, lowering its checked bag allowance from 50 to 40 pounds. And in the true spirit of Spirit, it has added a $25 surcharge for bags weighing 41 to 50 pounds. . . . If you have no birthdays or special occasions on Saturday, celebrate Passport Day. In honor of the all-powerful book, facilities around the country will open their doors for all questions and applications. Info: travel.state.gov. . . . . Last Sunday, Southwest started service from Newark, N.J., to Chicago Midway and St. Louis. On June 2, it adds BWI Marshall, Denver, Houston and Phoenix.

Andrea Sachs (not the one who wears Prada) has been writing for Travel since 2000. She travels near (Ellicott City, Jersey Shore) and far (Burma, Namibia, Russia), and finds adventure no matter the mileage. She is all packed for the Moon or North Korea, whichever opens first.
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