n their zeal to raise cash, the
liquidators of bankrupt Renaissance Cruises sold the rights to the
name and the company logo. Understandable.
What we don't understand is why it is in anybody's interest to
have the new owner of the Renaissance name sending "Dear Friend:
We're back!" letters to travel agents while the old owner is
attempting to recall commissions from those same agents with
letters saying, "Dear Friend: Pay up!"
We understand that the new user of the name claims to have
retained Online Vacation Center, an American Express
representative, to act as its reservations department.
We also understand that the president and chief executive of Online
Vacation Center is Ed Rudner, the former head of the old
Renaissance Cruises and an architect of a sales and marketing
strategy that, for most of that cruise line's existence, was widely
perceived as hostile to travel agents.
And we suspect agents understand one more thing: You get to pick
• • •
Pick a number
obody feels good about airline
bankruptcies and everybody feels bad for the employees, passengers,
ticketholders, suppliers and travel agents who suffer the
Having said that, we're a little concerned that the
Transportation Department is telling airlines how much of an
administrative fee they can impose when honoring the tickets of
bankrupt Vanguard Airlines.
It would be nice if we had a law saying that when a carrier
suspends service, its competitors must honor its tickets at face
value plus $25. But we don't.
What we do have is the Aviation and Transportation Security Act,
which had only this to say on this topic: that airlines shall
provide transportation to the ticketholders of bankrupt airlines
"to the extent practicable." That's it. The law says nothing about
doing it for $100, for $25, for $10 or for free.
Nevertheless, the free spirits at the Transportation Department
interpret the law to mean that airlines can charge no more than
We would be more concerned about this back-door method of rate
regulation were it not for two things. First, it's good for
consumers. Second, this section of the law expires in May, so the
DOT's offense to free-market sensibilities will be short-lived.
For the record, however, we'd prefer to stick to the spirit of
the Airline Deregulation Act: No matter how bad of a job the
marketplace is doing in setting airline fares and fees, the
government should not set them.
If the DOT, in divining the intent of Congress, can get away
with telling airlines what to charge, it can tell their agents and
wholesalers what to charge -- and we do not want to go there.