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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, June 6, 2001

Fifth Cheap Tickets call center to open

Advertiser Staff

Cheap Tickets Inc. said it will open a fifth call center, in Tampa, Fla., to aid customers who want to confirm travel plans over the telephone rather than rely solely on the Internet.

The Honolulu-based seller of discount leisure travel products said its Tampa call center will start operations next month with a staff of 100 and could eventually employ as many as 400.

"Telephone sales capability remains a critical distribution channel for Cheap Tickets because we know from third-party research that more than 60 percent of consumers still prefer to purchase their travel products over the phone, even if they do shop for the best deals online," said Sam E. Galeotos, the company's president and chief executive officer.

Cheap Tickets has call centers in Honolulu, Los Angeles, Lakeport, Calif., and Colorado Springs, Colo. Galeotos said the Tampa facility, the company's first in the eastern time zone, will make it easier to provide 24-hour customer service.

Cheap Tickets, which competes with Internet travel companies such as Expedia Inc. and Travelocity.com Inc., sees the telephone as a way to stay ahead of growing competition.

Last week, Orbitz LLC, an Internet travel company owned by the five biggest U.S. airlines, began selling travel services to the public.

Orbitz, which gets fees from companies offering travel services through its site, said it expected to handle $600,000 to $1 million in sales a day. The Chicago-based company, owned by UAL Corp.'s United Airlines, AMR Corp.'s American Airlines, Delta Air Lines Inc., Northwest Airlines Corp. and Continental Airlines Inc., plans to give customers information about flight delays and airport traffic conditions, among other things.

The U.S. Justice Department is conducting an antitrust review of Orbitz, and 22 state attorneys general have raised antitrust concerns.

Cheap Tickets' call centers handle, on average, more than 22,000 calls per day through the firm's 24-hour reservation line. Its Web site, www.cheaptickets.com, averages more than 91,000 visits per day, the company said.

Cheap Tickets said it had total gross bookings of $665.5 million in 2000. The company reported in April that its first-quarter profit fell 49 percent. Net income fell to $1.18 million, or 5 cents a share, from $2.31 million, or 10 cents, a year earlier.