hen a half-dozen airline executives
get to tell the industry's sorry tale to a House committee, you
might expect them to get a little sympathy. And they did. But as we
reported a week ago, that's about all they got.
It seems to us that Congress in this election year is
disinclined to do anything for the airlines that could remotely
give rise to the word "bailout" in a headline.
• • •
And speaking of bailouts (or bail-ins), the entity known as "the
new Virgin-branded U.S. airline" (note that it isn't calling itself
Virgin USA) will put its headquarters in New York, partly because
the city and state offered $11 million in what the company calls
"hard and soft" grants and incentives. It will also make San
Francisco its principal base of operations, partly because the
Californians offered $15 million. That comes to $26 million in
government assistance. This entity will be put under the microscope
by those who want to make sure it's a "U.S. airline." So far, it
sure is acting like one.
• • •
Bear Stearns analyst Glen Reid is beginning to wonder whether a
certain sameness is creeping into the cruise industry, such that
passengers might have trouble telling one ship or cruise line from
another. We believe that's a concern -- even though Carnival and
Royal Caribbean are doing a lot of things right, judging from their
We have no doubt that travel professionals are quite aware of
all the differences between the various brands. Things might not be
so clear to passengers, however, and for that reason Reid suggested
that cruise lines develop stronger brand identities. We are
reminded that people in the automobile business could also discern
the differences between Oldsmobile and Buick, but the Oldsmobile is
going away because consumers couldn't.
• • •
Speaking of brands, we note that InterContinental Hotels Group
is planning to roll out a new brand, as is Choice Hotels. And
developer Jack DeBoer, who pretty much invented the extended-stay
segment as the founder of Residence Inn, Summerfield Suites and
Candlewood Suites, is starting his fourth chain, offering
value-priced extended stays. We thought the rampant proliferation
of lodging brands and segments was just a phase we went through a
few years ago.
Perhaps it's a recurring phase.
• • •
The latest promise from IATA is the elimination of paper tickets
worldwide by 2007. We are accustomed to hearing airlines make
promises they can't keep, but this goal seems like it might be
achievable, at least in the world's major international
This is one area where the U.S. is clearly the world leader.
E-tickets account for 85% of travel agency transactions in the
U.S., and the figure is even higher for the direct sales of several
U.S. air carriers.
Elsewhere in the world, IATA figures the E-rate is about