Orbitz, the super-Internet site for airlines, has put off its September launch until June next year, saying it wants to include more travel suppliers and build its customer service. In the meantime, it will launch an interim site in October that will allow users to compare all airfares.

Dennis Blank/ORLANDO

Jeffrey Katz, chief executive of Orbitz, based in Chicago, says it wants to include more hotel and tour travel groups, as well as improve its internal service department to provide a "different kind of customer care".

Orbitz was started with a financial investment from five US majors - American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Northwest Airlines and United Airlines. Around 30 carriers worldwide have signed on as charter marketing partners.

The privately held company will spend between $75 million and $125 million on the venture before it becomes "cash positive", said Carl Ruthstein, chief financial officer. According to Katz, Orbitz will spend $100 million on a marketing and advertising campaign in June.

In the meantime, the US Justice and Transportation departments are looking into complaints of anti-trust violations following hearings before the Senate Commerce Committee this summer. The American Society of Travel Agents charges that the huge web site will drive travel agents out of business.

Orbitz is in discussions with Hotwire.com and Priceline.com, both US discount travel web sites, as well as the Hotel Reservation Network, about an alliance. It has already signed up two rental car agencies, Hertz and Advantage, as well as the National Leisure Group, which provides packages for eight cruise lines.

Source: Airline Business