July 1, 2008 / 10:01 PM / 11 years ago

Orbitz travel sites replace Expedia at MSN

A screenshot of Orbitz.com, taken on July 1, 2008. REUTERS/www.orbitz.com

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Orbitz Worldwide Inc said on Tuesday its Orbitz.com and ebookers.com websites have replaced Expedia Inc as the travel agencies for Microsoft Corp’s Internet arm MSN.com in the United States and the United Kingdom.

The change, which Orbitz said could bring about 3.5 million visitors per month to Orbitz via MSN Travel, represents a blow to Expedia, which began life in 1995 as a Microsoft company.

A Microsoft spokesman said the company decided to switch to Orbitz because it preferred the travel site’s features and customer service.

“Our customers are looking for innovative and differentiating experiences in travel,” the spokesman said.

Orbitz did not provide data on how many visitors could be drawn to its ebookers European affiliate through the deal, which took effect Tuesday.

“Our partnership with MSN will provide additional visibility and traffic to both Orbitz.com and ebookers.com, strengthening growth in both the United States and the U.K.,” Orbitz Chief Executive Steve Barnhart said in a statement.

An Orbitz spokesman declined to say what the arrangement would mean for the company in terms of bookings or company earnings. He said, however, that there is an ad revenue component to the deal.

“The traffic that MSN produces for Expedia now goes to Orbitz. This gives Orbitz a business advantage,” said Henry Harteveldt, an analyst at Forrester Research.

Shares of Orbitz, which have shed about 45 percent this year, closed up 10 cents to $5.11 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Reporting by Kyle Peterson; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe

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