Cheap Tickets
packs up

200 employees will be laid off
when the Hawaii call center
closes by year's end

Cheap Tickets Inc., a firm founded in Honolulu in 1986, is closing its Hawaii call center, laying off 200 employees, because consumers are opting to book travel online rather than over the telephone.

The company, bought for $280 million by New York-based real estate and travel-services giant Cendant Corp. in 2001, said it will cut the jobs in increments and that the Honolulu call center will close by year's end. Cheap Tickets will continue to have its headquarters in Parsippany, N.J., with the bulk of its operations in Denver, including a large call center.

"We've made a difficult decision to close our call-center operations in Honolulu," said Kate Sullivan, spokeswoman for Cheap Tickets. The company notified the employees, mostly reservations and customer care agents, yesterday.

The company's Hawaii call center is at Pacific Guardian Tower at 1440 Kapiolani Blvd.

As people have grown more comfortable purchasing travel online, the volume of calls has dropped, Sullivan said. With the travel industry still rebounding from world events, it was necessary for the company to become more efficient, she said.

"Cheap Tickets is better able, I would say at this point, to support operations in the Denver area, because ... we do have a lot going on in Denver," she said.

Cendant has been restructuring its travel reservation arm since it bought Cheap Tickets. At the time, it also bought travel reservation company Galileo International Inc. for $2.8 billion and began integrating the two.

Sam Galeotos, former chief executive of Cheap Tickets, recently stepped down as the head of Cendant's travel distribution unit.

Cendant's travel distribution revenues fell about 2 percent in the third quarter of 2003 to $424 million from $432 million last year, the company recently reported.

Cendant, a $21 billion public company, is the largest U.S. real estate and travel-services corporation, with brands including Howard Johnson, the Avis and Budget rental car companies, Coldwell Banker, Century 21 and Ramada.

Cheap Tickets will offer job placement help to laid-off employees. Hawaii's unemployment has been consistently lower than the national average, and was at 4.3 percent in September.

The company had sought government incentives in the past to keep call center operations here, but Sullivan said those issues were not factor in the decision to close the call center. She pointed out the jobs are not being moved elsewhere, but are being eliminated entirely.

Cheap Tickets was founded by Michael J. Hartley and his wife Sandra, who took it public in 1999.


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