f you believe every accusation that's
been made about Orbitz, you'd have to come to the conclusion that
the airlines are both dumb and evil -- and that's a tough
combination, even for an airline.
We are prepared to believe that any given airline, on any given
day, is capable of acts that are dumb, evil or both, but we remain
to be convinced that airlines are fundamentally stupid or evil by
nature. We rather suspect that these traits have to be learned.
We desire to be optimists, and we want to believe that airlines,
gradually, tend to get smarter over time.
For example, suppose you had five large publicly traded airline
companies. Suppose further that all five are already under a
federal consent decree for price-signaling. Now suppose that they
decided to break the antitrust laws and engage in monopolization,
restraint of trade and price-fixing. Would they (A) do it on the
sly or (B) paint a bull's-eye on themselves by spending $100
million to create a joint-venture company with a cool-sounding
name, some expensive publicists and consultants, a high-priced
technology guru and an even higher-priced chief executive
We don't know whether the airline founders of Orbitz are dumb,
evil or just a bunch of guys stumbling around trying to figure out
Before making up our minds, we'd like to see how the technology
works and whether it's better, faster or cheaper than the legacy
systems that power agency CRSs. Even if Orbitz goes away, it will
be useful for the travel industry to know what the "new technology"
can and cannot do in real life.
We may have the answers soon. Orbitz is in beta test and its
launch date is rapidly approaching.
Now would be a good time for the Justice Department to emerge
from its deliberations and settle the antitrust questions that have
been raised. Even dumb and evil airlines deserve an answer. And so
do the rest of us.