The flap over Dubai Ports World was a
Not directly, of
course. No travel companies were involved. The aborted attempt by
the Arabian company to acquire cargo-handling facilities at a
half-dozen U.S. ports would have had little impact on cruise lines
and no impact on any other travel suppliers or travel
But its a travel
story because of the extraordinary force of adverse public opinion
that drove Dubai Ports to withdraw, and the way in which U.S.
public opinion is perceived overseas.
We should all be
concerned about anything that drives yet another wedge between the
West and the Arab nations of the Middle East. Until theres peace in
that region, theres going to be no end to the terrorism that
threatens our transportation systems, no end to the cost of the
extraordinary measures we take to protect ourselves. That makes it
a travel story.
The U.S. reaction
to the Dubai ports controversy also makes it easy for the Islamic
world -- indeed, the entire world -- to conclude that the U.S.
distrusts foreigners, that we do not welcome foreign investment and
The bad news for
travel is that attitudes such as these are difficult to reconcile
with the fundamental values upon which much of our industry must
rest: that international travel, open borders and free trade are
good things in their own right and must be encouraged. In a
political and economic environment in which these things are not
held dear, our industry cannot thrive.
We are travelers
here. Xenophobia, a fear or distrust of foreigners and of
unfamiliar things, is the antithesis of what this business is all
about. If travel industry lobbyists in Washington want to take up a
cause, they can choose no better project than finding ways to keep
these attitudes out of our public life.
few weeks back, we spoke to Aloha CEO David Banmiller for our
weekly Hot Seat interview, and he mentioned why he was so
driven to get the airline out of bankruptcy in a hurry: Bankruptcy
We got confirmation
about a week later when the Wall Street Journal reported that the
law firm Kirkland and Ellis billed United $100 million for its work
as lead bankruptcy counsel. For that amount of money, Kirkland and
Ellis could start a new airline.
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Lots of eyes will
be on Northwest for the next few weeks as the carrier experiments
with a scheme to charge $15 for some of the better spots in the
coach cabin, such as aisle seats and exit rows.
We think its a cool
idea, but we wonder about the impact of a test that will charge for
some of those seats and not others. For years, many passengers have
chafed at the idea that they might have paid much more than the
person sitting next to them, simply by dint of some accident of
timing or availability. It may be equally disquieting to know that
you paid $15 for something that most others got for free, and that
you did so deliberately.
Even worse would be
to pay the $15 and get stuck next to somebody with poor elbow
" " "
On the other hand,
Northwests experiment may produce valuable information for what
could be the next step in in-flight service -- widespread cell
Will people pay a
surcharge for a No phone zone?