e were holding back on our Outrage of the Month award because some airlines still haven't been heard from, but even though there are eight days to go, we're going to go out on a limb and give April's trophy to California attorney Brian Kindsvater.

This is the fellow who filed suit in California against 225 travel agents, and then put a page on his Web site (since removed) that presumed to offer them legal advice on what they should do about being sued. Ever helpful, Kindsvater advised the agents he sued to send him an e-mail for a sample settlement agreement, which would include "a monetary component."

For one travel agent interviewed by Travel Weekly, the word "extortion" came to mind.

Kindsvater filed the suit on behalf of the Consumer Action League, a heretofore unknown entity. He later told our reporter that the league is not a "full-blown organization." The disappearing page on his Web site said the league actually is an "individual person," whom he declined to name. He said, "It really doesn't matter who the plaintiff is."

But it seems to us that it matters quite a bit who the plaintiff is and what the plaintiff's motives are. Doesn't that help the courts weed out frivolous lawsuits and lawsuits that abuse the judicial process?

This lawsuit does not allege that Kindsvater or the league were harmed by the alleged failure of any of these agents to meet California's registration and disclosure regime for sellers of travel.

The suit simply alleges that the agents either failed to register or failed to disclose their registration number. Well, maybe they did. Maybe they forgot. Maybe their Web pages were attacked by viruses. Maybe they were going 45 in a 40 mph zone.

What do you do if you see 225 people going 45 in a 40 mph zone? You could call a cop. Or you could file a lawsuit and then suggest that the plaintiffs send you a check. Maybe it depends on whether or not you regard law enforcement as an entrepreneurial activity. We don't.

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The Hickory venture

ickory Travel Systems, which is itself an ARC-accredited entity, is launching a venture that will allow small agencies and work-at-home agents to queue their airline business to the larger entity and share in its overrides and other benefits.

This program could take some of the sting out of airline commission cuts for many small and single-person agencies, which is why ARTA has embraced it as part of an ambitious project to bring a range of new options to its members.

This kind of cooperation between the very big and the very small is not uncommon, but it's not common enough, and for that reason alone, we hope it gets a fair trial in the marketplace.

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