Long wait times to rent a car at Orlando International Airport: What happened?

After airline passengers said they had to wait in long lines over the weekend – some an hour or more – to pick up their rental car from Orlando International Airport (MCO), or to find out that there were no vehicles available, at least one national car rental company said it has made adjustments; however, with the busy spring season ahead, at least one travel expert does not believe the issue will improve.

The biggest event last weekend in Central Florida was the Daytona 500, which draws thousands of people to the area.

In a statement on Monday, Enterprise Holdings, which manages Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental, and Alamo, acknowledged that it had to make "adjustments" over the weekend to ensure those who have existing vehicle rental reservations were able to rent a vehicle.

The company also said that once all of their vehicles were booked, they stopped accepting reservations. FOX 35 also reached out to Hertz and other rental car companies over the weekend and again on Monday, but has not received a response.

Orlando International Airport said other factors were impacting car availability, including the demand to rentals due to Daytona 500, but also that people were allegedly not returning their vehicles at their scheduled time, which then creates a cascading impact on those waiting.

To cope, some customers booked reservations with alternative companies, such as Turbo or uGo Carz, a car rental website.

"This is the first time we sold out in a long time," said Robert Gordon, owner of uGo Carz. "I think we all got caught by surprise, was expecting a mediocre President’s Day weekend, but everything was planned on the same weekend and demand took over supply."

So with Orlando being a popular destination year-round, especially during the Spring Break season, is this a fluke or will this be an ongoing problem?

"We’re seeing more travelers and less inventory," said Chi Tarver, owner of Extra Vacations. "It’s very common for car rental companies to accept a reservation for more than one client, two to three families for the same car."

She said it's not the companies' intention to not rent the car, but they're looking to guarantee revenue in case someone backs out or does not show up.

She has a few travel tips:

  • Book trips early vs. last minute
  • Work with a travel agent
  • Pay for your reservation in full