For years, Expedia.com, the flagship brand of online booking conglomerate Expedia Inc., joined the industry wide practice of claiming that consumers would always get the best prices for travel on its websites and apps. But on October 18, Expedia-branded websites worldwide dropped that long-standing offer, Skift has learned.
Until then in the U.S., Expedia had offered to match the price and provide a $50 travel coupon for bookers who found a cheaper flight, vacation package, rental car, cruise, or activity on other publicly available sites within 24 hours of the reservation. Similar offers were made in other countries worldwide.
Asked to comment about the move, Expedia Inc. spokeswoman Sarah Gavin told Skift: “Our marketplace, as well as the broader landscape, has evolved so much that there are so many easier ways to save than there were when this was invented. Our customers now have their hands on the savings steering wheel themselves. They don’t need the old booster seat anymore.”
One possible explanation is that Expedia wanted to promote its loyalty program. Anyone who creates an account and signs up to become a free Expedia + member can get access to a hotel price guarantee on their first and subsequent bookings, explained Expedia spokesperson Nisreene Atassi. The best-price guarantee for other travel purchases is no longer active even for them, though.
Atassi did not say that the loyalty program was the reason for the move. She said instead by email, “In terms of the thinking behind the decision, we are confident in the strength of our marketplace and the wide array of options we offer travelers from over a million flights, hotels, packages. This allows our travelers to continue to find great deals to help them see the world and get to where they need to be.”
Overall, the company did not explain the business rationale behind the decision. Had the guarantee lost effectiveness over time? Were the types of consumers who went to the trouble to submit complaints cheapskates the company no longer wanted to spend money supporting?
Or did the company fear that regulators in other markets, such as Europe, might find the notion of a price-matching guarantee a distortion of market pricing — perhaps putting independent hotel owners at a disadvantage because they didn’t have a comparable prowess at digital marketing? French watchdogs currently are pursuing Expedia and other companies about their contract terms, though not the price-matching guarantees.