Travel sites, GDS report drop in ticketing after attacks

At least some of the companies that handle ticketing for the airlines are reporting a dramatic, though not surprising, drop in ticketing last week.

Airline reservation systems company Amadeus Global Travel Distribution SA, as well as online travel sites Expedia Inc. and Orbitz LLC, reported drops in the number of people purchasing tickets after four hijacked commercial airliners were used last week in terrorist attacks on the U.S.

Madrid-based Amadeus, a global distribution system, reported yesterday that it had 1.6 million fewer bookings last week than during the same period a year ago. That represented a 28% drop, though in North America, where airplanes were ground for three days after the attacks, ticket purchases dropped 74%. North America represents 12% of Amadeus' total annual booking, according to the company.

Likewise, Expedia, in Bellevue, Wash., reported it has also seen a drop in purchases.

"Travelers booked new reservations on Expedia's sites at between 35% and 40% of the levels for the same days in the prior week. Further, on Sept. 17, bookings were ... approximately 45% of the levels for the same day in the prior week," the Expedia statement said. That was the last day before the terrorist strikes leveled the World Trade Center in New York and hit the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. A fourth hijacked plane crashed in Pennsylvania.

Orbitz spokeswoman Dawn Doty said, "Our traffic has been down dramatically since last Tuesday's tragedy. And our call centers have taken tens of thousands of calls assisting customers with questions about their travel plans." Chicago-based Orbitz was unable to quantify the drop.

"We hope the situation will stabilize in the coming weeks, now that commercial air traffic is being re-established. Our worldwide bookings volume for the third quarter through [Sept. 10] met market expectations with a growth of around 4%, in spite of the already existing downturn in the North American market," said Amadeus President and CEO Jose Antonio Tazon.

The drop in ticket sales comes at the same time other global distribution systems are bolstering their system capacities in the expectation of an increase in flight information requests from travelers who need to cancel or rebook flights that were grounded last week, as well as for those travelers who no longer feel safe flying.

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