TWA 800. Swissair Flight 111. They are, all too recognizably, coded
shorthand for disasters -- names and numbers linked in an ironic
half-life of shock and disbelief.
And now there's EgyptAir 990.
Our condolences, of course, go out to the grief-stricken
families and friends of those who perished so abruptly off the
coast of Nantucket Island in what is the third major air calamity
in North America in three-and-a-half years.
At the same time, all of us share a special empathy with those
travel agents and tour operators who placed passengers aboard the
ill-fated flight. We can only imagine the anguish experienced by
those affiliated with Grand Circle Travel and Elderhostel, both of
which had large groups aboard the Cairo-bound plane.
If there is an agent's nightmare, this is it.
We think that ASTA got it right when it opposed a proposal by
ARC that would require most new travel agencies accredited after
Jan. 1 to report sales electronically.
No one can deny that the digital capture of sales data probably
will make electronic reporting the method of choice for the trade,
with ARC already projecting that 50% of agents' transactions will
be submitted electronically by year's end.
Nevertheless, we are struck by the logic implicit in a statement
by ASTA official Paul Ruden, who in opposing the proposal said, "If
electronic reporting is so good, agents will do it
Indeed, ARC should recognize that electronic reporting remains a
controversial topic with some retailers and that, in Ruden's words,
"shoving it down their throats" doesn't make it any less so.
ARC should back off for now.