While airlines are getting their aircraft back in the air and filling planes and hotels are opening, rental car companies are having a hard time. In the last year, many companies seriously reduced the numbers of cars in their fleets. This has made car rental prices skyrocket in many locations and for some locations to simply be out of cars in many classes. So, what did happen when my specific rental car class was given away to someone else?
Rented a Specific Car Class from National – And it Was Gone
Quick background – I am a National Executive Elite which means their highest tier of elite status (not hard to get and, in the past, possible to get with just simply registering and doing a single rental). I have rented a lot from National and earned status over the years as I have always enjoyed their customer service (that I have experienced) and their things like One, Two, Free promos and the selection available for their elite members.
Renting a Great Deal
I had to do a one-way from the NYC area and had a National Free Day certificate to use. This is my favorite use of these certificate as it often costs a lot for a one way and these certificates can usually be used on almost any class of vehicle. I have reserved many great vehicles and saved hundreds with these certificates.
Since I was going to be traveling on my own, I wanted to have a car to really enjoy the weather in so I reserved a “Convertible” class which is specified as a “Ford Mustang Convertible or similar.” I didn’t really care what it was, I just wanted the convertible!
The cost was almost $300 for the vehicle for a one-day, one-way rental and I only had to pay like $15 in taxes, plus the free day certificate.
However, when I arrived at the airport in NYC, I was surprised to find no convertible in sight. An associate came up to speak with me and I told him what I had rented and he apologized but said they did not have any in right then. He said that a lot of people fly in on private planes and end up taking the convertibles when they arrive.
Ok, I get that vehicles may be in the aisles to choose from for other members and I get that a convertible in NY in late May is likely a preferred class. What I don’t get is that they would not hold the reserved class of vehicle for someone that is in their top elite tier (which, again, can typically be received by almost anyone through different promos from time to time so I know that it isn’t worth that much but still worth more than a non-member!) – and then not making some kind of offer of a higher class available.
The agent showed me some other, nicer vehicles and said he could “let” me have one for $60 per day. In the end, I just chose one of the other cars on the lot that did not cost me and left.
So, Why Did This Happen?
I think there is one big reason that this happened like this. While it is an airport location and they get a lot of one-way reservations, they likely would rather rent out something like a convertible to someone – anyone – renting a return reservation than a one-way where they never see the car again.
Since I was on a one-way, they probably chose to rent it out to a paying customer who was on a roundtrip so they would make some good money on it and get it back rather than make nothing on it and lose it. This would be backed up by the fact that after I had made the reservation, I noticed that this location stopped offering any vehicle beyond a full size available on a one-way reservation – any one-way reservation, not just a free day one.
Here was my problem – I could have rented a mid-size from them at a reasonable price out of pocket and still ended up in the vehicle I ended up driving away in. Instead, I had used my free day certificate with the intent that it was for a reservation that would otherwise have cost over $250. Could I have just rolled the dice and possibly grabbed a convertible on a mid-size rate since I could pick from the lot? Sure, but I really wanted the convertible which is why I reserved that! 🙂
So, after the trip, I called up National to mention all this to them. I was hoping that they may work something out like letting me book at a regular rate, post-reservation, and pay the rate and give me back the certificate. I wasn’t sure if this was even possible with their system but I wanted to try.
Instead, unprompted, the rep gave me back my rental certificate – for free! So, in the end, I had a truly free rental car experience! With a deal like that, who cares that I didn’t get “my” convertible. 🙂
I was very pleased with the way that National handled it, especially since these times are so hard for rental car companies and they are likely getting many complaints. Just one more reason I prefer to rent from National!