It was not immediately clear how long the website was offline, but Web users visiting flysaa.com on Sunday morning were greeted with a message from domain registration company Network Solutions stating that “flysaa.com expired on 17 January 2010 and is pending renewal or deletion”.
The service appeared to have been restored by midday on Sunday, though many Web users were still saying they could not access the site. This could mean that the service was back online, but the domain name system servers, which map human-readable Web addresses to machine-readable Internet Protocol numbers, still needed to refresh.
Investigation by TechCentral on Sunday suggested SAA wasn’t directly to blame for the downtime. Rather, a company called In The Net Technologies, based in Randpark Ridge, north-west of Johannesburg, appeared to be responsible for maintaining the flysaa.com domain on the airline’s behalf.
Flysaa.com, with its online ticketing system, is integral to the carrier’s business. The website downtime could have cost it millions of rand in lost revenue.
According to Arthur Goldstuck, MD of research firm World Wide Worx, flysaa.com is probably the country’s biggest e-commerce website. “SAA carries about 6,5m passengers a year, with an average ticket price of about R2 000,” he said. “A conservative estimate suggests at least 25% of these tickets are booked online, which would amount to around 2,1m tickets at an average of R2 000 each, amounting to R4,2bn/year, or roughly R11,5m a day (at least). That’s a fairly expensive day for a [domain renewal] that should only have cost around US$10.”
SAA spokesman Vimla Maistry declined to comment and said the airline was drafting a statement to explain the downtime on the website. — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral