Orbitz looks to lower its operating costs further

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Online travel operator Orbitz Worldwide Inc.

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Online travel operator Orbitz Worldwide Inc. said Wednesday that it named a new chief executive and will take further steps to lower its operating costs as it tries to cope with a slowdown in travel demand.

The company named Barney Harford, a former executive for Expedia Inc., to succeed President and Chief Executive Steve Barnhart, who resigned to pursue other interests.

In its latest round of cost cutting, Orbitz said it hopes to save an additional $20 million to $25 million a year. That is on top of the $20 million in annual costs reductions the Chicago-based company announced in November as part of a plan to cut its U.S. work force by 10 percent.

At the time, the company reported that its third-quarter loss had widened as the global financial crisis in September prompted consumers and businesses to pull back sharply on travel spending.

In an interview, outgoing Barnhart said the expense reductions will focus on contractors and other outsourced resources, although some full-time staff positions will also be eliminated. The company did not provide further details.

The company said in its annual report for 2007 that it had 1,590 full-time employees.

During a conference call with investors, Orbitz’s leadership attributed the latest round of cost cutting to the prospect of a longer and deeper recession, as well as to the company’s improved productivity and efficiency.

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Editor in chief is Linda Hohnholz.