This morning, travel service Expedia announced it will abandon its book by phone fee, which it first implemented last May. This makes it the only major online travel agency to not ding customers with a fee for booking flights over the phone, notes consumer travel advocate Christopher Elliott.
Elliott spoke with an Expedia spokesman to find out why the company dropped the fee so soon, and whether this hints at a brewing price war among Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz.
This is not a competitive response to Travelocity’s recent announcement. It’s a move to strengthen our leadership in the entire industry. We don’t feel that we are engaged in a continuing fee battle with other OTAs. On the contrary, we feel like we are setting the market rates – or lack thereof – and it’s up to our competitors to react.
we’d like to point out that Expedia was already charging a smaller fee than our competitors, so the impact to us isn’t nearly as significant as it would be to other OTAs. We believe that if we remove this fee, travelers will reward us with their loyalty.
Will Travelocity and Orbitz respond in kind? There’s no word yet, maybe because only last week they were busy out-doing each other on sunny sounding “price guarantees” that seem designed more to generate good PR than to protect customers.