Cheap seats choke budget airline sites

A ticketing price war between Australian budget airlines Virgin Blue and newcomer JetStar has resulted in both companies' Web sites being choked by a frenzy of bargain-crazed, hopeful passengers attempting to secure 300,000 tickets priced at $29.

Both virginblue.com.au and jetstar.com.au Web sites appear to be experiencing substantial delays in loading home pages, with users reporting frequent time outs on both sites.

However, once loaded, booking problems continue. Customers attempting to select flight times, destinations and prices are greeted by more time outs or loading failures.

The user reports indicated the trouble started late yesterday with JetStar's launching of 100,000 seats onto the market at $29, Virgin Blue retaliated almost immediately with 200,000 seats at the same price.

Virgin Blue uses the low-cost, Web-based OpenSkies booking engine from Navataire, a subsidiary of Accenture. The system is widely favoured by low-cost, start-up airlines because it is far cheaper per transaction than traditional booking systems such as Gallileo and Amadeus.

The system is generally remotely hosted so as to allow bandwidth to be dynamically allocated in line with spikes in traffic volume created by special offer or campaigns.

Calls to both JetStar and VirginBlue head offices were put on hold for periods in excess of 30 minutes.

A call centre operator at VirginBlue acknowledged the site congestion saying that customer response was "just phenomenal".

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Julian Bajkowski

Computerworld
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