Hotwire to lay off workers in wake of terrorist attacks

Like other travel agencies, Hotwire Inc. saw a dramatic drop in travel bookings after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. Now, the San Francisco-based online discount travel site is laying off 10% of its workforce.

Spokeswoman Amy Bohutinsky said the layoffs were a direct consequence of the drop in bookings after the terrorist attacks. "All summer long we had really strong growth levels," she said.

Hotwire had added staff to accommodate the site's growth rate and had approximately 170 employees at the time of the attacks.

The company was caught completely off-guard by events during the last two weeks. "The best business plan in the world could not anticipate that," Bohutinsky said.

Hotwire was founded by United Air Lines Inc., American Airlines Inc., Continental Airlines Inc., Northwest Airlines Inc., US Airways Group Inc. and America West Airlines Inc. Hotwire specializes in unloading unsold seats at a deep discount to minimize losses for the airlines.

Travel sites and airline reservation systems reported precipitous drops in bookings after the attacks, while several airlines announced deep workforce cuts or outright closures.

Bohutinsky said the rate of airline bookings on Hotwire has fallen to 60% of the rate before the attacks, and hotel bookings are now at 80% of previous levels. Not surprisingly, car rental rates are "beating all records," she said, noting that the number of cars being reserved online is now twice as high as it was before before the Sept. 11 attacks

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