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I stride out of customs at Beirut Airport and head for the National Car Rental desk. Hmmm…a bit odd, Hertz, local agency, Avis, Budget, empty desk, local agency.
I double-checked my National reservation and it did say in-terminal.
I asked the young man at the local agency. He pointed to the empty desk and said National had disappeared from Lebanon without notice. He gave me their local number, same as on my reservation. A man answered on his mobile phone to say they are shut down. The Avis rep added that this happened December 19 and they have been getting a steady stream of business from customers like me.
Rental agencies often work with local franchisees overseas. The Lebanese franchisee must have bolted and no one at National noticed in the month since. Sloppy management!
I had opted to pay US$7 more for National to avoid the home currency scam shenanigans with Avis/Budget as happened on my rentals in Spain, and now I was in their hands. Budget was sold out, Hertz wanted $127/day and the local agency wanted a minimum 3-day rental for about the same as the Hertz 1-day. My National rental would have been $49.
Fortunately, Avis had one economy car left for $63. Itinerary rescued and I was soon out on the road.
So what should I request from National to pay in compensation? I booked this reservation after December 19 and they did not notify me and are still taking bookings. I am thinking they pay for my Avis rental and perhaps a free rental day certificate or two for the hassle? If Avis hadn’t had that car left it would have been really costly. I rarely complain to airlines/hotels/car rental, I find no appeal in making a sport of it. This one is at least comical enough that I want to pursue it.