After the airline builders like Juan Trippe and C.R. Smith and Bob Six pass into history, you deregulate the airlines and get rid of all their old clubby ventures like the Air Traffic Conference and SATO.

Enter a new breed of managers from Wall Street and the business schools who understand things like regression analysis and opportunity costs, and when they compete, it's like the MBA meets the NBA, elbows all over the place. On some routes they're throwing airplanes at each other 10, 12, 15 times a day, so you want to suspend the antitrust laws so they can cut a gentlemen's agreement to schedule their flights to fit the air traffic control system that you failed to modernize.

Well, that's a convenient way out, isn't it?

Antitrust immunity might offer short-term relief, but we dislike it for this reason: It makes it look like the airlines broke something and the government is trying to fix it, when it's really the other way around.

A good thing!

We noted in this space six months ago that the House and Senate, finally, appeared to be on the same wavelength regarding legislation to waive visa requirements for foreign visitors. For longer than we care to remember, the visa waiver has been a pilot program, subject to annual renewals and funding debates, and travel industry lobbyists have been fighting to make it permanent.

We reached the homestretch last week when the Senate passed the Visa Waiver Permanent Program Act. The House is expected to follow.

Under the program, visitors from countries meeting certain requirements can stay in the U.S. for up to 90 days without a visa, and U.S. citizens enjoy similar access in return. Some 30 countries participate.

It's an enlightened concept that is credited with facilitating international travel to and from the U.S., and that makes it a good thing.

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