December 28, 2006 in Business

Business in brief: United triggers air fare sale

The Spokesman-Review

Following with tradition, United Airlines has launched a post-holiday fare sale intended to stimulate demand during a traditionally slow period, and many of its competitors followed suit.

Some sample one-way fares, which must be purchased by Jan. 9 as part of roundtrip service through March 7, include: $109 for Chicago to San Diego, $126 for Denver to San Francisco and $49 for Washington to Chicago.

The lower North American fares were published by Elk Grove Village, Ill.-based United, a unit of UAL Corp., late Tuesday and matched early Wednesday by AMR Corp.’s American Airlines, Delta Air Lines Inc., Northwest Airlines Corp., US Airways Group Inc. and Continental Airlines Co., according to the air travel Web site FareCompare.

Tickets must be purchased 14 days in advance, and U.S. itineraries require a two-day minimum stay, among other restrictions.

San Francisco

iTunes store can’t keep up

Swarms of online shoppers armed with new iPods and iTunes gift cards apparently overwhelmed the Apple’s iTunes music store over the holiday, prompting error messages and slowdowns of 20 minutes or more for downloads of a single song.

Frazzled users began posting urgent help messages Monday and Tuesday on Apple’s technical forum for iTunes, complaining they were either not allowed into the store or were told the system couldn’t process their request to download songs and videos.

It was not immediately clear how many people were affected by the slowdowns, and Apple Computer Inc. would not immediately comment Wednesday on what caused the slowdown and whether it had been fixed.

Analysts said the problems likely were the result of too many people with holiday iPods and iTunes gift cards trying to access the site at once.

Traffic indeed was heavy over the holiday, with more than four times as many people visiting the iTunes Web site on Christmas than at the same time last year, online market researcher Hitwise said Wednesday.

New Orleans

Katrina lawsuits in negotiations

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said Wednesday he is trying to settle out of court with the insurance companies he sued last year for refusing to cover billions of dollars in damage from Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge.

Hood said he has negotiated with several companies to resolve his suit “without the expense and time of litigation,” but they haven’t reached a settlement. Hood, who declined to say which companies have participated in the negotiations, also urged other companies to join the talks.

Hood said he hopes to negotiate a settlement that would secure an unspecified amount of money for the thousands of Gulf Coast homeowners whose claims were denied by insurance companies after Katrina.

Hundreds of individual policyholders in Mississippi also have sued insurers for denying their claims and refusing to cover at least $2 billion in estimated damage from Katrina’s storm surge.

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