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Orbitz Says Sales Hit All-Time High

Orbitz, the online travel site operated by a consortium of airlines, delivered a mandated progress report to the U.S. Department of Transportation and said that its gross travel bookings and sales hit all-time highs for the week ended Nov. 4.

"As the public resumed traveling (after the terrorist attack on the United States), Orbitz's traffic jumped by 56 percent in October compared to September," said Orbitz President and CEO Jeffrey Katz.

Orbitz has said it expects to be profitable by the middle of next year.

Of course, very little competes online so much as the travel business, and Orbitz took the opportunity of making the required DOT report to crow about itself, saying that it "has introduced much-needed competition in the online travel sector, resulting in significant consumer savings and convenience."

A business travel group took exception, however, saying that corporate travel has failed to benefit.

Orbitz, in its report to the DOT, cited a fare study conducted by Prof. Darryl Jenkins and BACK Aviation Associates that found that Orbitz meets or beats the lowest price quoted by Expedia and/or Travelocity on the same itinerary more than 80 percent of the time.

The six-month progress report filed with the DOT was requested by regulators in April, after a review that dismissed the claims of other travel distributors that Orbitz' technology and ownership structure would be anti-competitive.

No doubt the competition -- outfits like Expedia, Travelocity, Hotwire, CheapTickets and Priceline - might argue that there was already plenty of competition in online travel before Orbitz came along.

And the Alexandria, Va.-based National Business Travel Association (NBTA) isn't smiling, either. The group said its members "overwhelmingly dispute the report presented to the Department of Transportation by Orbitz on its business practices."

The group urged the DOT to apply the same "full access to fare" rules to Orbitz that apply for the Customer Reservation Systems (CRS).

In a survey of 200 corporate travel managers, the NBTA said, 96 percent responded that their agents have not been able to find fares offered by Orbitz through a CRS.

NBTA said it opposes current pricing practices, in which corporate clients are not offered the same low fares that are offered to consumers through Orbitz.

Orbitz launched in June and said that since then more than 2.8 million consumers have registered to use the service and made purchases of more than $500 million.

Chicago-based Orbitz, backed by a consortium that includes American, United, Northwest, Delta and Continental, also said today that the site reached a new peak in traffic during October, when 6.3 million unique users visited the site, up from 4 million in September and 5.9 million in August, according to Nielsen//NetRatings figures.

Meanwhile, name-your-own price travel service Priceline launched a "Best Days For Best Deals" holiday travel calendar aimed at helping customers maximize savings.

The color-coded calendar ranks days according to ticket availability and typical savings.

Red days are peak travel days, where ticket availability is tightest and prices are likely to be highest. On yellow-coded days, customers can expect average availability and nominal discounts. Choose a green day for good ticket availability and better discount possibilities. And for maximum travel savings, look for the airplane-in-a-star logo -- those are the days when ticket availability is high and airlines are most willing to accept customer purchase offers at the deepest discounts, Priceline said.