Online sales frenzy grounds AirAsia site

Budget carrier's sale of cheap flights causes Web site to experience downtime, with company revealing on Facebook page that CPU capabilities reached 100 percent within five minutes from start of sales.

Malaysia-based airline AirAsia on Monday faced consternation from customers with its persistent site downtime caused by an upsurge in online booking activities, which overtaxed the company's server capacity five minutes after the start of a ticket sale.

The budget carrier issued a statement on its Facebook page saying the overwhelming response to its sales promotion caused its CPU to hit "100 percent within 5 minutes since the sales start". The "Big Sale", which offered flights from as low as 10 cents ringgit (US$0.03), was scheduled to begin at noon on Monday. Shortly after it commenced, AirAsia posted its Facebook statement which also noted: "Our vendor Navitaire is working on [restoring the service at] full speed right now (yes, we are holding our batons and standing behind them to ensure a smoother booking experience)--hang on!!! We appreciate your patience!"

AirAsia's regional head of commercial, Kathleen Tan, also sent out a tweet highlighting the amount of traffic its site was receiving before it went down. She wrote on her Twitter account: "Incredible. Am in ICT n'we hv got 6k searches in one second, all 'dying' to get their hands on 10sen fares on"

Online customers, however, did not see the humor in having to wait for hours to purchase the promotional tickets. At the time of writing, some 915 comments were posted on AirAsia's Facebook page, many proclaiming their annoyance and disappointment at failing to book their tickets.

One Facebook user, William Lee, wrote: "With all the money AirAsia makes you'd think they'd invest more into their IT infrastructure. But nooooo...still the same nonsense year after year."

Another user, Helena Gran-Moss, expressed similar frustrations, saying: "Waiting from 12 p.m…finally reach payment…and then…nothing :´(".

Not all customer messages were negative, though.

Ethan Expressivo, for one, finally got his tickets after much perseverance: "Yesssssss!!!!!! Finally, I have got my tickets to Paris!!! Good luck , everyone! I am sure with much endurance, you guys will got the promo tickets too, although it's really hard to get one!"

Both AirAsia and Navitaire did not reply to ZDNet Asia's questions by post time.