Is Orbitz Providing Unbiased Information?

Upgrade: Travel Better details the way that Orbitz requires rental car companies to pay for site placement. Vanguard which owns National and Alamo wouldn’t pay a lump sum and higher commissions than their current contract required, so their results were given a lower priority than competing companies. Vanguard sued, but the suit was thrown out.

Consumers need to understand that travel booking sites aren’t necessarily providing unbiased information. Beyond that I don’t have a problem with arrangements like this, even though I understand that consumers do assume that the booking engine is unbiased. Starwood defaults its rate display based on its ‘recommended’ rates. Expedia pushes its own ‘special rates’ (negotiated deals with a higher margin).

This is hardly new ground. I recall that when American Airlines owned Sabre they privileged their own flights over those of their competitors. In that case there was a legal issue involving anti-trust law which doesn’t exist in the Orbitz case.

As always, check out multiple sites to compare information rather than assuming a single site is providing all the needed information to make the best possible decision.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community Milepoint.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. In response to this blog post, we at Orbitz.com wanted to add some clarity to this conversation.

    First, Orbitz continues to have an unbiased and comprehensive display of airfare results in the matrix on Orbitz.com. We are constantly optimizing our search algorithm to bring the best prices and most relevant results for our customers.

    Second, whether it is through our pre-paid hotel inventory or through our car rental search results, we are determined to provide customers with the best all around value. Great prices. Suppliers with great customer service. And access to comprehensive inventory. Simply put, we want to put on display within our virtual store shelves travel options that most customers actually want to book.

    Finally, this brings us to the baseless lawsuit by Alamo and National. A Judge in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois rejected Alamo and National’s over the top attempt to get a temporary restraining order to stop Orbitz from doing exactly what Orbitz is absolutely entitled to to under the contract. After hearing Alamo and National’s story, the Judge held that they lacked a likelihood of success on their contract claim, meaning that their claim is fundamentally weak. It is important to note that Orbitz continues to act within its rights to display valued travel options to its customers.

    Customers should know that we stock our shelves with inventory that most travelers actually want to buy. We are a business, and at the end of the day, we make money when more travel is booked. The truth is, Alamo and National wanted premier shelf space for inventory that wasn’t moving like other suppliers’ inventory. And we never agreed that they would always have that premier place within our results.

    Something to think about…if you owned a store – would you provide premier shelf space for inventory that didn’t sell as well as someone else’s inventory?

  2. I absolutely agree that Orbitz is within its rights. I just want customers to know what it is doing, so that they don’t assume they’re seeing the best rental car deals for them.

    And since I can’t imagine Orbitz making an announcement of changes to how it displays airfares, I don’t think we can count on the veracity of unbiased displays in the future.

    Hence my advice to always check more than one website. I think that stands.

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