The Brancatelli File



January 15, 1989 -- If your flight is delayed, even for an hour, you’d better call your car-rental company and let it know you’re running late. Otherwise you might end up stranded at your destination.

A telephone survey of the seven largest car-rental firms shows that several companies will hold your reservation for only one hour after the time you promised to pick up the car. Show up later than that and the firms say they can’t guarantee there’ll be a car waiting for you.

As the chart indicates, the policies of the major car-rental companies differ greatly. The survey also revealed that reservation agents at the companies’ toll-free 800 numbers often didn’t know company policy on this point. Only National’s and Budget’s operators correctly stated their companies’ holding-time policies. Three other operators substantially misrepresented their firms’ policies. And clerks for two companies that say they’ll hold your car for 24 hours after your original reservation time—Dollar and Alamo Rent A Car—weren’t even aware of the policy.

How do you make sure a rental car will be waiting no matter how late you arrive at your destination? Official spokesmen for all seven companies offer exactly the same advice: call whenever you’re delayed and change the arrival time on your reservation. “We’ll wait for you,” said one company official. “But we’ve got to have some idea when you’re really coming.”


This column originally appeared in Travel & Leisure magazine.

Copyright © 1989-2013 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.