bout a year ago in this space, we applauded ASTA's decision to change its bylaws to open the membership to individual agents and independent contractors.

Considering that ASTA always had represented owner-managers of brick-and-mortar agencies, we thought that was a big step. It was a positive sign that ASTA was able to adapt to change in the same way that it has exhorted its members to adapt.

Now we salute ASTA once more for its recent plan to restructure its board of directors and its chapters and to take a new approach to its annual World Travel Congress. These actions show that travel agents, whether they are in charge of a business or of an association, can manage change.

"Managing change," come to think of it, is a redundant phrase in today's economy. In many ways, the essence of managing a business is the art of setting and pursuing goals in a changing world that won't let you sit still.

Hats off to ASTA, and to agents everywhere who are not sitting still.

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Is United listening?

ormally, stating the obvious is not a way to make news, but sometimes an obvious remark is noteworthy because of who makes it. And that brings us to the Business Travel Coalition, an advocacy group for business travelers and the firms that employ them.

In a recent commentary on the United bankruptcy, BTC chairman Kevin Mitchell noted that United, having "all but destroyed its relationships" with travel agents, "has lost a ubiquitous sales force that was compensated only when it produced sales. Travel agents can drive business to UAL, instead of away," he said, suggesting that the airline might want to mend some fences.

United has heard this before, but now it is hearing it from a representative of the business community, from an advocate for the business travelers who are said to be United's most valuable customers.

Now might be a good time for United to listen up.

• • •

The standby fee

ne of the low points of the last year for airline marketers was the nickel-and-dime fad, when airlines tried to outdo each other by imposing bothersome extra fees on passengers for various things like heavy baggage, paper tickets or the privilege of getting home a little sooner by flying standby on an earlier flight.

We are happy to see several major airlines dropping the $100 standby fee, which most carriers were going to adopt at the beginning of the year. It was crass and crude; we are glad the forces of competition, or shame, got the better of them.

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