Priceline announced a new promotion featuring price-protection offers on airfare, including Name Your Own Price fares, and vacation packages. Priceline's Pricedrop Protection follows the same basic theory behind Orbitz' Price Assurance program and Travelocity's recent PriceGuardian offer. Basically, if you book airfare or a vacation package on Priceline and someone else subsequently books the same itinerary at a lower price, Priceline will refund you the difference (up to $300 for airfare, $300 for air-and-car-rental packages, and $600 for air-and-hotel packages). The promotion is valid for bookings made through June 1.
Priceline would also like to remind you that it doesn't charge booking fees. Travelocity and Expedia waived their booking fees as part of their respective promotions, but those fees are set to return in June when the promotions expire. Orbitz also charges a booking fee.
Competition between the big online travel agents (OTAs) has really heated up in the past 10 days, and it's no wonder, considering all four are desperate for bookings. It's interesting that Orbitz has not jumped in with a fees-be-gone promotion of its own, but maybe it's on the way. (What I'd like to see is a four-way battle royale between each OTA's spokesperson/mascot, with William Shatner, Expedia's yellow suitcase, the Travelocity Gnome, and Orbitz' hovercraft-driving guy. That would be excellent.)
Kidding aside, these deals are great for customers. Booking fees aren't prohibitively expensive, usually between $5 and $15, but cash is cash and every dollar counts these days. So if you are looking to travel, check out these deals and compare fares from all four OTAs (and your airline, of course). This is, after all, a buyer's market.
(Editor's Note: SmarterTravel is a member of the TripAdvisor Media Network, an operating company of Expedia, Inc. Expedia, Inc. also owns Expedia.com.)