Travel

Travel Troubleshooter

His rental car was on the wrong side of the island

Q. I reserved a rental from Budget at Maui’s Kahului Airport for $350. When I showed up, the not-so-friendly agent said I did not have a reservation. I gave her my reservation number and she said my reservation was for the office on the other side of the island!

I told her the phone agent obviously made a mistake since the airport is at Kahului, and asked how she could help. She said she couldn’t do a thing since they were sold out of cars. After some discussion, she “found” a car for almost $1,000!

When I complained, she then “found” another car, even though they were sold out. This car was mine for only $550, but came with mandatory insurance and roadside assistance.

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I told her I didn’t need or want those options, but she said if I rejected them the rate would be $1,000. I told her I would deal with it when I returned and accepted the $550 so that at least I had a vehicle to drive.

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When I called Budget after my return to Texas, the phone agent said he couldn’t help since I had accepted the options, but as a goodwill gesture he could refund 50 percent of the fees. I refused, since I didn’t voluntarily accept the options. I wrote to Budget via its website and it offered me 25 percent off, which I also declined.

At this point, I don’t know what to do. Why would I sign for options I don’t need or want? The only reason was because the desk agent in Maui said I needed to accept them in order to get the lower rate.

SHAWN MESSONNIER,
Plano, Texas

A. Budget should have had a car for you on the right side of the island at the right price. The “fix” was rather self-serving: Either accept another rental at more than three times the rate, or another rental at about double the price.

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I don’t like either.

A review of your correspondence shows that you called Budget and spoke with a reservations agent, who entered the incorrect Maui location. If you’d reviewed your reservation, you would have seen the error and could have corrected the reservation before you arrived.

Airport car rentals are almost always more expensive than off-airport locations. Airports charge facilities fees and taxes. Kahului Airport adds an Airport Facility Charge, an Airport Concession Fee, a Vehicle License Fee, a county tax and a general excise tax. You can find a handy list of these extras on Hawaiicarrentals.com. It’s clear that Budget was trying to quote you the same rate and just cover its expenses.

However, the “mandatory” insurance is another matter. When I looked into that, Budget admitted your experience was “not typical.”

“A copy of our report has been sent to the appropriate manager for corrective actions,” a Budget spokesman assured me.

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Next time, either book your car online or use a qualified travel agent to help you. If you don’t, at least review the reservation after it’s been made.

I contacted Budget on your behalf and it refunded $172, the full amount of your “mandatory” insurance.

Christopher Elliott can be reached at chris@elliott.org.