Labor Day is the traditional end-of-summer holiday, which is reason enough to pause and reflect on the kind of summer we've had.

It began badly. We were in a recession, and still are; Mexico was trying to claw its way out from under the cloud of a scary new swine flu, H1N1; travel suppliers were cutting prices, hoping to find one that worked; and United stunned 28 agents, and the rest of the industry, with a new approach to credit card merchant fees.

In addition to these demons, this summer treated us to one of the worst tarmac incidents on record (the ExpressJet overnight in Rochester, Minn.), one of the worst hotel tax laws we've ever seen (thank you, New York) and the emergence of a previously unknown threat to our safety and sanity (river pirates in Peru).

We had nuggets of good and interesting news here and there. The National Park Service reopened the Statue of Liberty's crown on the Fourth of July. Two troubled airlines, Frontier and Midwest, found a new parent in Republic. Work finally began on the Brando, a resort on the late actor's private island.

Overall, however, the accumulated bad news seems to have outweighed the good stuff, leaving the travel industry as troubled by short- and long-term challenges as it has ever been.

We consulted our resident pessimist, who says this does not seem to be a good place from which to begin a descent into the, er, low season.

But our resident optimist observes that recessions are temporary and that good news is contagious. When the turnaround begins in earnest, he says, things will be looking good all over, whether it's winter or spring.

We're going to check back with them frequently this season.

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