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Hotwire makes pledge of quality, privacy

The discount travel site unveils a set of guidelines for itself, emphasizing access to well known travel companies and the security of personal information.

    As the battle for control in the online travel industry rages on, Hotwire.com appears to be putting in its two cents.

    The discount travel site on Monday unveiled what it is calling the "Hotwire Quality Promise," a set of guidelines emphasizing its commitment to reliable service and to providing access to top-tier travel companies.

    Among the so-called oaths, Hotwire says its customers will only fly, stay or drive with major travel companies, and that airline customers will never be unknowingly issued a ticket that requires more than one connection. The San Francisco-based company also said customers' personal information will remain private.

    The online travel industry is one of the few that are doing well on the Web. With that, the competition has become ever so fierce.

    Chicago-based Orbitz, a Web travel agency that launched last month, has had to come out of the gates swinging. The company has been criticized for its relationship with the major airlines. In May, Southwest Airlines pulled its flight information from the clearinghouse that supplies Orbitz, saying it did not feel comfortable giving information to a company backed by its five largest competitors.

    In another incident, Orbitz customers holding tickets for a regional carrier were turned away at the airport, ultimately sparking a public-relations fight.

    Hotwire's move is the second customer-focused announcement the company has made in as many weeks. Last week, Hotwire announced a deal with Orbitz, which offers published fares. Orbitz will offer customers access to Hotwire's "opaque fares," as part of the deal.

    "Opaque fares" is an industry term for wholesale tickets that are purchased without the name of the carrier and often without the time of departure. These details are revealed after the ticket is purchased.

    Both Orbitz and Hotwire are backed by major airlines such as Continental Airlines, Northwest Airlines and United Airlines.