The print issue of Travel Weekly includes a recap of the major events of 2006 and snapshots of the year through the lens of cartoonist Milt Priggee. All together, that may be more or less than you want to remember of 2006, but after reviewing the recent past, we think it fitting to end this year on notes of optimism.

For a benchmark, we poked around in the archive, went back 25 years, and found that the airline industry was in chaos in 1981. (Think of it -- chaos!)

That was the year that Frank Lorenzo of tiny Texas International Airlines launched an unprecedented hostile takeover of the much larger Continental. Such bare-knuckled financial tactics were nothing new on Wall Street, but in the gentlemanly world of the airlines where mergers were like arranged marriages, it was shocking.

And giving the applecart a good kick while it was down, President Reagan fired thousands of striking air traffic controllers that summer, crippling the air traffic control system and severely restricting the ability of the airlines to use their new freedom to expand and grow (deregulation was still a new thing).

We eventually got over it, though.

We also peeked ahead and found that 2007 will be the 25th anniversary of the first Braniff bankruptcy (ouch!).

As for those notes of optimism: Yes, there are still some airlines in bankruptcy, but not as many as before. Also, US Airways' unwelcome offer to merge with Delta has apparently given Delta's people a renewed sense of purpose. That could be good.

There are other takeovers afoot, and while they tend to breed uncertainty for a time, we can at least take some comfort that the GDSs are not such total dinosaurs that they can't attract buyers.

Carnival, NCL and others are investing in new ships. We say this just about every time a big ship order comes down the ramp, but it bears repeating: When a publicly traded leisure travel company makes a half-billion-dollar investment in a new ship, it's cause for joy. You can take it as a sign that things are good.

In short, the world of travel was not such a bad world in 2006. 

Unfinished business

It would be unnatural to end the year with no unfinished business in the nation's capital, and in this regard, the travel business has more than its share.

We didn't get immigration reform, and that means the business community, including the hotel and restaurant sectors, did not get the guest worker program that President Bush proposed. Here's hoping he has better luck with the Democrats than he had with legislators from his own party.

We didn't get a new vision for Amtrak, a new agreement to open up aviation with the European Union or a federal commitment to promote inbound travel. 

We've been waiting too long for those, but those are mere matters of commerce. We also have unfinished business on a broader scale, and this is a fitting season to be mindful that we've been waiting too long for peace and stability among nations.

History shows that this is the great unfinished business of the human race but, and this is our final note of optimism for this year, if we're serious about the business of bringing people together, it's the one thing we must keep on our list of things to wish and work for.   

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