Orbitz has reduced its fees for all hotel bookings through July 15. The move is similar to a recent round of airfare fee cuts from Orbitz, Expedia, and Travelocity, which were aimed at jump-starting sluggish air bookings. Orbitz also boasts that it will show you the full price of your booking up front, which it claims no other online travel agent (OTA) does.
Orbitz also expanded its Price Assurance program to include hotels, meaning Orbitz customers can receive a cash refund if another Orbitz customer books the same stay at a lower price. That sounds great, and it is, but keep in mind that the lower price must be for the exact same check-in/check-out dates and room class, and an Orbitz customer must actually book that lower rate. If the rate is available but no one books your exact stay, no dice.
It seems likely that Orbitz' competitors, notably Expedia and Travelocity, will at least match Orbitz' reduced fees, but so far neither has made any official announcement. However, industry blogger Tom Botts noted that Expedia may have quietly lowered its fees to line up with Orbitz. He does some comparisons in his blog, but I thought I'd run a few of my own:
- San Francisco; Le Meridien, Classic nonsmoking room: Orbitz $595.89 (includes $26.30 in taxes and fees), Expedia $595.92 (includes $26.31 in taxes and fees)
- Boston; Royal Sonesta, Cambridge View Room King Bed: Orbitz $564.08 (includes $62.48 in taxes and fees), Expedia $492.50 (includes $53.61 in taxes and fees)
- Seattle; Hotel Max, Artist King: Orbitz $617.22 (includes $79.80 in taxes and fees), Expedia $610.11 (includes $72.81 in taxes in fees)
- Chicago; InterContinental, standard room: Orbitz $902.51 (includes $138.97 in taxes and fees), Expedia $882.58 (including $119.04 in taxes and fees)
All prices searched May 5; check-in May 28, check-out May 31
I can't draw sweeping conclusions about Orbitz' fee-reduction deal from a sample this small, but it is interesting to see that Expedia's fee totals ranged from one cent higher than Orbitz' to nearly $20 cheaper. In two cases, Expedia's cheaper fees alone accounted for the difference in total price.
The moral of the story? As always, compare, compare, compare. I'm certain that Orbitz' deal will offer savings in some (if not many) cases, but clearly it's not a slam dunk. Keep an eye on the other OTAs to see if they launch a response to Orbitz.
(Editor's Note: SmarterTravel is a member of the TripAdvisor Media Network, an operating company of Expedia, Inc. Expedia, Inc. also owns Expedia.com.)