PULLMAN, Wash. – State regulations concerning travel reservations and car rentals recently changed, providing departments and travelers with more flexibility and responsibility.
Travel reservations previously had to be made through state-approved agencies or directly through an airline. Recent rule changes, however, allow for online travel reservations through agencies such as Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, Kayak, Priceline, etc.
While online agencies might offer an initial savings on airline tickets, there can be pitfalls, warned Pattie Collins, WSU Travel Office.
“Online agencies usually are very restrictive in terms of any change in itinerary,” she said. “There usually are stiff penalty fees, often requiring the purchase of a one-way ticket, which can be very expensive. So, if you end up needing to make any changes, it doesn’t save any money.”
To avoid penalty fees, Collins said, people need to know the travelers for whom they are making the reservations.
“If the traveler is someone who changes his or her itinerary often, it’s better to book with the airline or travel agency,” she said. ”If it’s a simple itinerary, over and back, and the person doesn’t usually make changes, then do whatever you’re comfortable doing.”
Promotional rates initially displayed often are not really available when you get down to booking the flight, “so in the end their prices can be about the same those offered by actual airline,” Collins said.
“The advantage to booking directly with the airline,” she said, “is that you have the ability to change your itinerary. There may be a fee, but it’s much cheaper than having to buy a one-way ticket.”
New rental car rules
In the past, WSU employees were restricted to renting cars from National or Enterprise, through which the university has negotiated reduced-rate agreements. Under the new rules, travelers have the option to rent cars from other car rental agencies; however, they need to be aware of insurance coverage.
If you use an alternate agency and pay for the rental car with a WSU corporate credit card, your insurance is automatically included at no extra charge. That’s because WSU negotiated an underlying agreement with its corporate credit card provider to include car insurance whenever the card is used in the purchase.
If a traveler does not use a WSU corporate credit card, the insurance needs to be arranged separately, which can be quite expensive, Collins said. If you fail to get insurance and there is an accident, the department is liable to pay for the costs incurred.
“So, if possible, it’s in the department’s best interest to use Enterprise, National or the corporate credit card,” Collins said.