As days shorten and the air chills, consumers typically start to plan winter getaways, making October one of the busiest months of the year for Internet travel sites, analysts said.

Not this year. As consumer confidence reached historic lows in October, the volume of visitors to Web travel portals declined 14 percent, year over year, to 38.2 million, according to ComScore Inc. Web traffic fell for nearly every major airline site.

Hardest hit were the three online powerhouses that have dominated bookings for much of this decade. Web traffic at Expedia Inc. sites plunged 25 percent, to 18.2 million visitors, while Travelocity.com LP and Orbitz saw 16 percent and 23 percent drops, respectively.

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