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Response To Lower Fares Overwhelms

Delta reports that site traffic tripled as a result of its simplified fares announcement. The site was back up by midafternoon.
Hours after Delta Air Lines announced early Wednesday a simplified fare structure and initiatives that encourage consumers to purchase tickets online, the airline's site came to a crashing halt. A Delta spokeswoman said in an E-mail that site traffic had tripled as a result of the announcement, and Delta was working to get the site back up. The site appeared to be functional again by 2:30 p.m. EST.

This week, Delta went nationwide with its SimpliFares fare structure that cuts ticket prices by up to 60%. SimpliFares, which Delta began testing in the Cincinnati market in August, caps all one-way tickets at $499 for economy and $599 for first class, eliminates the Saturday night stay requirement, and cuts ticket-change fees from $100 to $50. Four months ago, Delta CEO Jerry Grinstein said the airline wants to move half of its ticket sales to the Web and begin operating more like a low-cost carrier.

In announcing the new fares, Delta also said it will award frequent fliers 1,000 bonus miles for booking on, and will now charge fees of $5 for booking with Delta's call center and $10 when booking at airports and other Delta ticketing locations.

Given those efforts to move ticket sales online, it was surprising that would have been overwhelmed by customer demand, says Norm Rose, president of Travel Tech Consulting. Whether the culprit was a Web server or something else within Delta's IT infrastructure, the airline probably should have been prepared for the surge in traffic, Rose says. "They made a big splash about simplifying their fare structure and they're getting a lot of hits," he says. "I'd think they'd try to anticipate."