n its latest "Dear Travel
Professional" letter last week, Continental Airlines puts its
travel agents on notice that it is committed to "strict adherence"
to advance-purchase, minimum-stay and other ticketing and tariff
Translation: Continental "will no longer be granting fare rule
waivers on any fare in any market."
We understand that Continental's "Executive Desks" may have been
getting too permissive with some agents, and maybe that's not a
good thing, but closing the door to all such waivers is not such a
good thing either. There are times when a waiver will close a sale
that wouldn't otherwise happen. A properly managed sales operation
should be able to make the most of those opportunities.
Continental claims to be "strongly committed to the integrity of
its fare structure." We'd be inclined to cheer if the fare
structure was a little more defensible.
Maybe the fare waiver is just another one of those things like
the olive in the salad: It goes away when times are tough and
insinuates itself back into the system when the airlines are making
It's a seasonal business in more ways than one.
• • •
udget Group and Vanguard
Airlines filed for bankruptcy within hours of each other last week,
the sort of coincidence that sets people to wondering whether a
"wave" of bankruptcies is upon us.
We think not, though it's certainly troubling for the car rental
industry that two companies comprising three national brands,
Budget, and ANC's Alamo and National, are in bankruptcy at the same
In recent years, the car industry's big two, Hertz and Avis,
have retreated once again to the relative security of big parent
companies (Ford and Cendant, respectively). As a result, we don't
see public earnings statements from them like we used to, but
Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group, the largest publicly traded car
rental company that's not in bankruptcy, reported increased
earnings in the second quarter and proudly pointed out that over
40% of its business is booked on the Internet.
We're not sure what conclusions to draw from all this, given
persistent rumors that Cendant is looking to acquire another car
rental firm. Perhaps the best that can be said about wind direction
in the car rental marketplace is "variable."
As for Vanguard, it's pretty clear that the star-crossed
new-entrant airline is going to disappear. It never made a profit
and surprised some observers by lasting as long as it did.
While we're sympathetic with the idea of Kansas City having a
hometown airline, and while we're saddened by any business failure,
the marketplace -- in this case -- appears to have spoken.