In announcing first-quarter financial results early this month, Avis Budget CEO Ron Nelson claimed that the company's commercial accounts who "encountered" its planned non-cancellation fee "have accepted it." I have my doubts. I'm not saying one way or the other whether it's appropriate for the car rental company to initiate a convention which is pervasive in the airline and hotel industries, but I find it hard to believe that buyers told Avis Budget they support something which reduces flexibility and could increase costs for their travelers.
Nelson had said the company began tests of the no-show fee, as planned and reported first here
. After Nelson made the comments, our reporter Lauren Darson asked Avis Budget for more details, including where the tests had occurred.
Check out this convoluted logic from VP of communications John Barrows ...
"At this point we are still in the testing phase of this initiative. We are testing our systems, and those of some of our travel partners, in limited locations for limited periods of time, to make sure everything works as planned. We have not implemented this policy on any kind of formal and full-time ongoing basis at any locations, channels, car classes or time periods. For example, we tested our Web channels only in the three weeks leading up to Presidents' Day weekend at one medium airport location and one off-airport location. We saw no dropoff in reservations or transactions arising out of the credit card requirement. And, to be clear, since you cover corporate travel, this test was aimed only at leisure travelers. Customers who applied corporate discount codes were not required to provide a credit card and did not face a non-cancellation fee."
So I asked John by email if the tests were only on leisure rates, how did the company know its commercial accounts had "accepted" the fee? His response: "We have discussed this with commercial accounts since it has been widely known that we're going down this road for some time. And because their travelers already are required to use a credit card for all their other travel reservations, they do not oppose our movement in this direction."
Hang on a sec. So, because corporate travelers already use a credit card and thus are not facing a change (like leisure travelers are, where they will need to pay by plastic in order for Avis Budget to levy the fee when appropriate), that means corporate travelers accept the fee? Dubious!
Do any corporate buyers out there have a comment? Email me here
if you prefer it to be private.