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Hertz: Keep your $2.50

February 20, 2005|Jane Engle

Hertz CORP. abruptly withdrew a $2.50-per-reservation fee that it had planned to impose last week.

The rental-car company acted after corporate customers criticized the move, which would have applied to business and leisure customers.

Unlike reservation fees of $5 or $10 that several airlines began last year, Hertz's fee would have been added even to bookings made through its website.

Hertz spokesman Richard Broome said the fee was put on "indefinite hold" after "there were questions raised by some key accounts." He declined to say whether the company might consider such a fee in the future.

Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Radnor, Pa.-based Business Travel Coalition, an advocacy group for more than 300 buyers of business travel, said he had urged members to call Hertz to protest what some of them deemed an "outrage."

Broome said Hertz proposed the fee to recoup the "ever-increasing costs related to our reservations systems." Mitchell accused the company of trying to transfer its distribution costs to customers.

Airlines vow lowest fares ... sort of

Taking a page from the big hotel chains, American and United this month joined the roster of airlines promising to offer the lowest prices on their own websites or they'll give customers $50 or more. Last year Continental and Northwest began similar guarantees.

There is less here than meets the eye, experts say.

Although details vary, no airline promises that its website's fares will beat those of competitors on the same route. Instead, each carrier guarantees only that fares on its own website are equal to or lower than those offered for the same flight on other websites, excluding bidding and discount sites such as or That also leaves out tickets bundled into packages or bought through consolidators and travel agents who sell tickets by phone or in person.

The guarantees are cost-saving moves designed to drive customers to the airlines' websites, said Henry Harteveldt, vice president for travel research at San Francisco-based Forrester Research. It generally costs airlines $1 or less per ticket to process bookings that way, he said, versus an average of $12.50 through computerized reservation systems.

Could this be a renewed detente? Oui!

America's on-again, off-again romance with France seems to be back on again, judging from the Paris on the Potomac festival, which opened last week in the city that served up "freedom fries" after France opposed the Iraq war in 2003.

The festival, which runs through Memorial Day, celebrates French art, music and more.

Highlights include "Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre," with 250 artworks, March 20 to June 12, at the National Gallery of Art; cinematic salutes to French directors Jean-Luc Godard and Agnes Varda (various times, venues); more than 20 concerts and dance performances; and special city tours, including one by Bike the Sites ([202] 842-2453,, $40) on French-influenced architecture. Some restaurants will offer special French menus.

For information on events and hotel packages, visit

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