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
• • •
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
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.