Shoppers swarmed Travelocity to take part in a one-day price promotion offered by the company, along with Yahoo Travel and American Airlines. Fort Worth, Texas-based Travelocity said it prepared for a spike in traffic but was surprised by the sheer number of visitors it got.
Keynote Systems, which tracks Web site traffic, said Wednesday that downloading Travelocity's home page took up to 25 percent longer than usual. The heavy traffic also hampered the site's navigation--the amount of time it takes to turn Web pages--by as much as 30 percent, said Richard Pendergast, Travelocity's vice president of systems.
"We had lots of traffic and some of the servers ran at a pretty heavy load," Pendergast said. "But we didn't have anything overload. We also had lots of successful reservations."
Shoppers logged on to take advantage of round-trip airfares that ranged in price from $70 to $314. Traffic peaked around 8:30 a.m. PDT, Pendergast said, adding that the company expected a second peak Wednesday evening at 6 p.m.
In the afternoon, American Airlines' site, AA.com, crashed. Although a message said the site was down "due to technical difficulties," a spokesman said the company did not think it was related to the increased traffic from the sale.
Online merchants have found that consumers will flock into a Web store that dangles low prices. E-tailers have also discovered, many times to their chagrin, that the added interest can cripple their computer systems.
Most major Web retailers, including Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Toysrus.com, have wrestled with site stalls or crashes at some point, usually during the holiday season.
Site meltdowns are not exclusive to online retailers, however. Other tech companies such as online brokerage firms E*Trade and Charles Schwab's Schwab.com, and person-to-person payment company PayPal, have suffered glitches with computer systems.