RealTime IT News

Priceline Puts Push on Last-Minute Travel

Priceline.com Thursday began promoting what it best known for: catering to the last-minute traveler.

Beginning today, the name-your-own-price company revised the look of its Web site to feature last-minute travel options. The down-to-the-wire options include airline tickets, hotel rooms and rental cars.

"Although catering to last-minute travelers is something we have always been known for, it is also something we never promoted," said Brian Ek, spokesperson for Norwalk, Conn.-based Priceline. "However, after in-depth surveys, we realized what the customer wants, which is a last-minute travel options for a full sweep of products."

Through the Priceline program, customers can buy an e-ticket as late as 6:00 pm. EST for U.S. travel the next day, book a hotel room as late as 6:00 p.m. EST for use that same night and rent a car that will be ready for pick-up in as little as 4 hours.

By using priceline.com, travelers can save up to 40 percent over published retail prices for leisure airline tickets and hotel rooms, and up to 20 percent or more over published rental car rates, Ek said.

"The bargains we supply become greater as time goes by," Ek explained. "For example, when a traveler books an airline ticket through us 21 days in advance, they get about 25 percent off the retail fee. However, when they book inside of 21 days, the value becomes much greater. After all, an empty plane seat is worth nothing."

Vendors, too, realize the value of the program. "On February 6, we began offering last-minute hotel options," Ek said. "We started with 200 companies and now have 1,500, which offers our customers good, nationwide coverage."

Travel expert Pauline Frommer, who advises priceline.com, said the service may change the way in which last-minute travel is viewed.

"Travelers have been conditioned to expect higher prices for last-minute bookings," said Frommer, who is editor-in-chief of Frommers.com. "What they don't realize is that travel products are highly perishable. If you can be flexible, everything's negotiable, which is why priceline.com works so well for last-minute travelers."

The program is being supported by a television and radio ad campaign.