Milestones

Milestones, anniversaries, industry firsts and "unprecedented" events are all around us, and it is a traditional job of journalism to take note. But we have to confess we fell down on the job and missed a big one.

Our calendar tells us that Delta's move to a zero-base commission rate for U.S. and Canadian agents was announced 11 years ago last week, which means we missed the all-important epochal 10th anniversary.

Did anyone notice?

For old time's sake we dug out the Delta press release of March 15, 2002, and found this prediction: "Travel agents will continue to thrive in the marketplace." It turns out to have been a safer bet than some folks thought at the time.

We promise to pay better attention to the calendar going forward.

In fact, we'll make up for our recent lapse by marking two upcoming milestones in advance:

• On April 14, Southwest Airlines will fly its own colors beyond the confines of the 48 contiguous states for the first time in its 42-year history, with nonstop service to San Juan from Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Tampa.

Congratulations are probably in order, but we can't help asking Southwest, "What took you so long?"

• We are also coming up on the third anniversary of the three-hour tarmac delay rule, which went into effect for major U.S. carriers in April 2010.

All in all, we have to call it a success. If the DOT's records are to be believed, the industry went from nearly 700 such delays per year -- an average of about two per day -- to fewer than two per month. No matter who's counting, that's progress.

It is true that the airlines now routinely cancel flights pre-emptively in advance of snowstorms, but the overall rate of cancellations has remained within historical norms, and passengers now have a degree of certainty they didn't have before.

The DOT made the right call on that one.
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