At a time when the airlines are struggling to get customers to fly, many of the largest carriers have temporarily shelved one of their most effective promotions: e-fares.
United Airlines, American Airlines, US Airways and TWA were among the carriers that posted notices on their Web sites announcing that they have suspended Internet-only discount fares since last Tuesday's terrorist attacks. Although each airline calls them by a different name, Net-only fares are designed to promote sales over the Web, a less-expensive sales channel. The sites were all still selling regular tickets.
A message posted at United Airlines read: "Due to the events of September 11, 2001, Domestic E-Fares are currently not available. Please check back as we will be offering you E-Fares again as soon as we are able."
US Airways' site said there were "no domestic E-Savers offered until further notice."
TWA said its "Dot Com Deals" had been "suspended temporarily."
Representatives from the airlines and several online travel analysts were not available for comment late Tuesday.
Other airlines, including Alaska Airlines, still offered Web-only fares. Several airlines that suspended e-fares were offering other pricing promotions. American Airlines still offered discounts to senior citizens on AA.com, for example.
Travelers have shunned airports after the terrorist attacks. The airline industry has reported losing at least $1 billion since last week and is seeking a multibillion-dollar federal bailout. In addition, several airlines have announced massive layoffs, and the top five U.S. carriers have cut their scheduled flights by about 20 percent.
Online travel sites also have been hard hit, with people canceling flights and flooding call centers to learn how they can rebook a canceled flight or get a refund. Since those sites operate as brokers, they mainly have been referring people to contact the airlines directly.
When the stock market reopened Monday, online travel stocks were among the biggest losers, with Priceline.com falling almost 40 percent, Sabre-backed Travelocity dropping 43 percent, and Expedia dropping nearly 34 percent. --Greg Sandoval, Special to ZDNet News