appears that our tax dollars are still working hard to confuse the
industry and the public about passport requirements at U.S. points
Most folks know by
now that if you are traveling by air to the U.S. from nearby points
in the Western Hemisphere (including Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean
and Bermuda), you need a passport to enter the U.S. when you
Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative will extend that requirement
to travelers at land borders and seaports, but Congress and the
administration can never seem to agree for long about how and when
this should happen. As a result, the effort to orchestrate an
orderly phase-in produces something best described as fits and
About a year ago,
Congress set mid-2008 as a target date for land borders and
seaports, but warned the State Department and the Department of
Homeland Security that several things had to happen
Key among them was
the development of a passport card, a wallet-sized ID card for U.S.
citizens that would be an inexpensive alternative to a passport --
a particularly attractive and sensible alternative for residents of
border states who make frequent border
But as the mid-2008
target date approaches, the passport card is nowhere in sight, and
nobody on Capitol Hill wants to run for re-election in the face of
another round of constituent complaints about a backlog of passport
applications or long lines at border checkpoints.
Thus Sens. Patrick
Leahy (D-Vt.) and Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) co-authored a rider to
last year's omnibus spending bill that would postpone the target
date to mid-2009.
That seems like a
In the meantime,
however, we think Customs and Border Protection can do a lot more
to keep the travel industry and the traveling public
was a good name and, in our opinion, a good idea. But like so many
pioneering good ideas implemented by so many other well-named
new-entrant airlines, it failed.
To its credit,
Maxjet took steps to protect its passengers, both on the ground and
in the air, and its demise looks like it will leave a much smaller
mess in its wake than many others we can name.
As the postmortem
gets under way, we will doubtless hear from analysts claiming that
the idea of operating a handful of 767s across the Atlantic with
only 100 business-class seats was doomed from the start because the
airline could not achieve any economy of scale.
Others might assert
with equal credibility, that the business plan looked a lot better
when it was conceived in 2004, before the run-up in crude oil
In any case, we
don't believe the death of Maxjet means the death of the premium
niche (or niche players in general) in the U.S.-Europe market.
Although no U.S. airline has survived for long offering an
all-premium service, the idea continues to attract capital from
time to time, and other premium airlines, such as Eos and
Silverjet, are still crossing the pond.
In short, for those
seeking diversity, there is still hope, and the advent of the
U.S.-European Union open-skies agreement may create still more
opportunities for airlines to try things differently.