Glitch bars passage on Orbitz

Summary:For almost a full day, customers of the online travel agency could review flight information but couldn't buy tickets because of an internal technical problem, a spokeswoman says.

An internal technical problem prevented Orbitz from booking online tickets for almost a full day, a setback that came just as the company and others in the travel sector are rebounding from the Sept. 11 tragedy.

The transaction system for the online travel agency's Web site didn't work from about 8 a.m. PDT on Thursday until early Friday morning, Orbitz spokeswoman Carol Jouzaitis said. During that time, customers could review flight information, but they couldn't buy tickets.

It was unclear what caused the malfunction, and the financial loss has not been determined, Jouzaitis said. She said it was the first time the company's own systems had failed since the site launched in June. Days after the launch, a damaged fiber-optic cable operated by an outside company slowed the Web site for hours.

"We're proud of our record," Jouzaitis said. "We've recorded about 90 percent availability...but this stuff happens."

Tripping over technical hurdles is nothing new for e-commerce sites. Web stores big and small have seen their sites lock out customers or botch orders.

A daylong fare sale on Travelocity in August drew swarms of customers, which taxed the site's systems and caused delays. Even experienced online merchants such as Amazon.com, Buy.com and Walmart.com, the Net unit of Wal-Mart, still see their systems experience technical problems.

Orbitz and much of the rest of Web travel have reported sales figures that indicate business is returning to what it was before the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

Last week, shares of Priceline.com rose almost 10 percent the day after the online travel company said demand for its services was recovering faster than expected. Like most travel companies, its share price had withered since Sept. 11. --Greg Sandoval, Special to ZDNet News

Topics: Fiber, Amazon, E-Commerce

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