Orbitz Price Assurance Has Plenty of Holes But Still Marginally Useful

Have you used Orbitz lately? I haven’t because I usually don’t find enough value in the online travel agents to pay their fees, but I’m glad to see that Orbitz is at least trying to create some new value here. Take a look at their new Price Assurance program; a new program that will automatically give you a refund if they find a lower price for your purchased itinerary. It sounds great, but there are plenty of holes in this program that make it not nearly as valuable as you might think.

Here’s the idea. Book a trip on Orbitz. If someone books that exact same flight itinerary after you on Orbitz for a lower fare, then you get the difference. They won’t give you anything until it’s $5 cheaper and you’re capped at $250. So what’s the catch?

There are a couple questionable terms that I’d like to know more about (eg “Fare decreases resulting from changes to an air carrier’s fare filing policies or practices will not be eligible for Orbitz Price Assurance”), and it’s pretty annoying that you won’t get your refund until 30 days after you take your trip when you could get it immediately on some airlines. My biggest issue, though? You may not always get the refund, even if you’re eligible for it.

Remember, someone has to book the exact same itinerary as you for a lower fare. Of course, if you’re flying LAX to JFK, then there’s a good chance that they will be able to compare it relatively often. But if you’re flying from Allentown to Bakersfield, well, there probably won’t be many people booked on the same flights on the same dates as you at all, let alone via Orbitz.

So, it’s a nice addition to Orbitz that at least makes it a bit more worthwhile to pay the booking fee, but there are better ways to handle this. You can do this yourself by registering with Yapta and book directly with the airline to save the fee. Or if you’re concerned about Yapta’s reliability, you could just use brute force and check it yourself.

Still, I know a lot of people won’t bother following up on these things. Since this is completely automated and no additional work is required, there is still some value here. It might just be worth the fee, depending upon the itinerary you’re flying and your willingness (or lack thereof) to do the follow up work yourself.

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