For the sixth year in a row, Moscow has the most expensive hotel rates in the world for business travelers. The average Moscow rate fell 12 percent to 13,250 rubles ($452). Fell.
Upgraded: Flights from NYC to Tokyo
American Airlines is launching flights from New York JFK to Tokyo Haneda Airport. Haneda, which is closer to downtown Tokyo, not Narita, the primary international airport.
Downgraded, then Upgraded: United grounds, then fixes, its 757s
United grounded all 96 of its Boeing 757s yesterday, to perform required emergency updates to all the planes’ air data computers. A day later, the airline reported that only 15 flights were nixed, and that all planes were back online.
Upgraded: One-way rentals out of Florida
If you’re in Florida and looking to leave the state between April and June, Hertz is serving up one-way out-of-Florida rentals for merely $5 a day. Rates are good for a limited range of destination states, and for a max of 14 days, but $5 is cheap. No one-way drop-off fees, either. Snowbirds bring the car in, you bring it out. This isn’t necessarily something for everyone, but if it meets your needs, go for it. (via)
Downgraded: Hot cheese
Beware of hot cheese when you travel. Seriously. The headline: “Disney in Hot Cheese Lawsuit.” It’s quite sad, actually, for the kid who got hurt. Poor child, but wow, what a sentence: “[Walt Disney Parks and Resorts] has just received the lawsuit from a Californian couple who say their four-year-old Isaiah Harris was injured at Cosmic Ray’s Starlite Café [at Orlando's Magic Kingdom] when he toppled into a scalding hot cup of cheese that had been prepared for pouring over nachos.”
It’s an oversimplification, sure. But there are basically two ways of looking at car rentals. You can either rent a car as to meet your transportation needs, or you can see your rental as an opportunity to try out a car that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to. It’s functional vs. aspirational renting.
There’s nothing necessarily better or worse about one perspective or the other. Personally, I tend toward the practical, but that’s a matter of taste.
Now Hertz is expanding a program that lets you rent cars that might otherwise be out of reach, under the auspices of their Rent2Buy program.
You can rent a car for $49 or $99 per day — $99 if the list price of the car exceeds $25,000. If you choose to buy the car, you don’t pay the rental fee. If you don’t buy, well, you rented a car.
These are used cars, admittedly, but perhaps you were considering, say, a Corvette or an Audi A6, and the quick test drive in the four-mile radius around the dealership didn’t quite cut it. In such an instance, the rental fee might be a worthwhile investment (I’m frankly assuming you don’t actually buy the car from Hertz).
Hertz has now expanded the program to 22 states, so it’s easier to play the rent-to-own game.
What I don’t get is why they would bother with rentals like Hyundai Accents as part of this program. That’s a standard rental car already, but if you’re paying $49 a day, you’re paying WAY too much.
All the attention has been on the Continental-United merger, but that’s not the only M&A action in the travel space. To wit:
- Hertz made an offer to buy Dollar/Thrifty for $41/share. Avis subsequently signaled interest in making a higher bid. Bottom line: The car rental market is about to shrink.
- Google is reportedly in talks to buy ITA Software, which provides much of the functionality for sites like Orbitz, Kayak, TripAdvisor Flights, and others. You can’t just google a ticket today, but you may do so soon.
The battle for Dollar/Thrifty between Hertz and Avis is largely about consolidation and elimination of the competition (much like the “Continited” merger). At the same time, buying Dollar/Thrifty would give Hertz or Avis a larger presence in the comparatively “downmarket” leisure travel segment.
The speculated deal for ITA Software is perhaps more interesting. What will Google do if it gains the technology and software engineering human resources to run better fare searches? Will they offer a search-of-searches, pushing traffic to airlines and online travel agencies, but putting Kayak and their metasearch ilk out of business? Will Google challenge Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, et al. themselves and build a Google travel agency? Will Google continue to sell the powerful ITA engine (which ITA lets anyone test drive on their beta site — login as guest) or will they let contracts expire and keep the technology for itself? Plenty of theories, but no answers.
So in the past week, the competitive landscapes for flying, driving, and booking travel have all potentially changed, with minimal visible benefits to the consumer. After all, less competition breeds higher prices.
All we’re missing is a hotel deal and a cruise line merger, and we’ll be all set. (The week is young.)
It’s a holiday promotion — you must pickup by December 31, 2009 — and you’ll still be out of luck if you’re under 21. But if you’re in the surcharge age group of 21 to 24 years old, this could be welcome promo for the holidays.
- If you’re under 25, how do you rent a car without huge surcharges?
- Before and After: Hertz to start photographing your rental car
- Lousy domestic US car rental rates? Check the European providers
The photo system is part of a broader plan to use technology to increase efficiency and improve customer service, [Hertz Chairman and CEO] Frissora said. The equipment produces a high-resolution, digital photograph of the rental car, and will compare before and after pictures for differences, Frissora said. Hertz employees currently walk around the vehicle and mark any damage on a form, which the customer signs.
“There will be no discussion because the document would clearly show any incremental damage,” Frissora said. “This keeps customers from being placed in a confrontational position and saves time.”
The Park Ridge, New Jersey-based company’s customers would sign a waiver acknowledging the process and be billed for any damage, Frissora said. Hertz is testing the technology at a location at an airport in the northeastern U.S., he said.
“There will be no discussion” seems a little brusque, but I get the point. Why debate the condition of the car when there’s photographic evidence?
Here’s hoping that the camera won’t lie. E-mailing a copy to the customer — both at the start and the finish of the rental — might be a low-cost way to ensure that the company is being an honest broker.
Dishonest rental locations have commonly tried to milk extra bucks out of customers by billing them for previously-existing damage to the vehicle. (For the paranoid, it’s always been a good idea to take photos of your rental car before you drive it off the lot, though I admit it’s something I’ve never done…)
But interestingly, the company suggests that it’s the one who’s going to come out ahead. Hertz says it’s been letting too many dents and dings slide, for a loss of $170 million, and that the photo system will catch these dings, leading to greater earnings.
Which worries me. Yes, the system SHOULD be win-win, by keeping both the agency and the customer honest. But $170 million is a lot of dings and scratches. Will the system start calling birdpoop dents?
Photos or no photos, don’t let your guard down.
Oh, Hertz… you were always a class act among car rental firms. But then you go and buy the remains of my least favorite US rental chain, Advantage Rent a Car, out of bankruptcy. Sure, Hertz gets a low-rent name that can appeal to downmarket customers. But don’t they know that when you lie with dogs, you get fleas?
A bright side of the downturn: The recession means less travel. Which means less pollution. (Duh.) 8% lower carbon emissions by the industry as a whole, in fact.
Upgraded: The Race Card
Without any additional comment… video of Steven Colbert on the Visa Black Card: