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Web users gravitate to Orbitz

In its first official week, the online travel site overcomes a sputtering start to become the fastest-growing site on the Internet, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.

    Orbitz.com last week overcame a sputtering start to become the fastest-growing domain on the Internet, according to research figures--not too surprising, however, for a site that just launched.

    Visits to the Web travel site from Net users at home nearly quadrupled for the week ended June 10, Nielsen/NetRatings said. Launched by a consortium of airline carriers, including American, Continental, Delta, Northwest and United, Orbitz provides travelers with access to low-cost airfares, rental cars, lodging, cruises, vacation packages and other travel deals over the Web.

    The site ran into trouble on its first official day of operation last week, stalling for three hours due to a damaged fiber-optic cable. Executives also said they failed to hire enough customer-service personnel to handle the traffic.

    With the problems of its first few days behind it, Orbitz attracted 689,000 unique visitors, compared to 143,000 the previous week, a jump of 382 percent, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. The site also made the top 10 advertisers rankings for the week for users both at home and at work.

    By comparison, travel site Expedia Travel attracted 1,837,000 surfers that week; Travelocity saw 1,535,000 and American Airlines attracted 740,000.

    In addition, Nielsen/NetRatings reported that surfers spent an average of 11.5 minutes on the site, with more than 28 percent of all visitors viewing the membership registration page. Men made up a little more than half of the audience.

    Orbitz, which delayed last year's scheduled debut to test its search engine and online customer-service features, was also examined by federal and state regulators for possible antitrust violations. Though the company has been allowed to move forward, the government is still keeping an eye on the venture.