• Plastic Iatan/IATA ID cards. IATA
plans to eliminate the plastic version of
its travel agent ID cards by the middle
of 2009 to cut costs and reduce fraud.
Travel agents would rely instead on personal ID
codes — and protect them like a Social Security number as part of fraud prevention. Suppliers would access
— Johanna Jainchill each travel agent’s professional information on a com-
puter database, where each agent’s file would include
• Majestic America Line (and, with it, U.S. river • ARC’s Payment Express. This service allowed air-
cruising). It didn’t come as a surprise, and when it did lines to collect fees from agents through the ARC settle-come, it was so anticlimactic that it was almost easy to ment system without obtaining explicit authorization
miss the passing of Majestic America Line and the seven from each agency.
storied vessels that plied America’s inland waterways. In early 2008, United began to use the system to col-
Whatever the management mistakes at Majestic’s par- lect per-segment fees from agencies that had failed to
ent company, Ambassadors International, these seven work schedule changes and cancel inactive trips. Unit-vessels are now all in drydock and will remain there un- ed said it was recovering GDS fees triggered by such
less some entity purchases one, some or all of them. failures. Continental, Delta and Lan Chile also used
Payment Express to debit
Responding to agent feedback (read: complaints),
ARC said in October that
it would scrap Payment
Express and shift these settlement activities to ARC
Memo Manager, a program
that lets agents initiate payments.
• Travel agent-issued paper air tickets. Effective June
1, IATA ceased supporting
paper tickets issued by IATA
agencies worldwide. This
did not affect U.S. agencies,
which settle through ARC
rather than IATA, and ARC
does not seem inclined to
take the paper option away
from U.S. agencies, although
paper represents a tiny and
rapidly disappearing slice
of total ticketing. There are
still some carriers that don’t
— Nadine Godwin
Three of Majestic America Line’s paddlewheelers are shown here as they sailed past the St. Louis Arch. The company did
not take bookings for 2009 and has not yet found new owners for its fleet of U.S.-based river ships.
tioning the cruise lines’ continuing the fees, as well as
their byzantine methods of refunding them.
Carnival Corp. dropped the supplements on all cruises from Dec. 17 on, and again the other lines quickly
• Cruise Value Center. One of the country’s top
cruise retailers folded in November, one year after Jeff
and Paula Kivet sold it to Travel Holding Entity of
Bloomfield Hills, Mich., a company managed by brothers Richard and Ronald Smith.
After more than 14 years in business, the East Brunswick, N.J.-based company shut down suddenly on Nov.
10. Travel Holding Entity said that the company had
simply run out of money, but it left many unanswered
questions when it was revealed that several million
dollars in final payments on cruises had been paid by
consumers to CVC, but had not been forwarded to the
Most noteworthy is the grande dame of
the fleet, the Delta Queen paddlewheeler,
built in 1926. The vessel is stuck in legislative limbo as Congress works out whether
to grant it a statutory exemption from a
1966 law banning wooden vessels from
carrying 50 or more people on overnight
— Michelle Baran
• Free checked bags. With the notable exception of
Southwest, most major airlines have hit passengers with
fees for not only second, but first checked bags.
Just how far carriers will go with these extra fees is
an open question, but airline CEOs have been assuring
analysts that the new revenue streams are here to stay.
Indeed, the carriers are counting on more unbundled
service fees, with menus of fee-service packages offered
on airline websites.
• Empty planes (for a while at least). All carriers executed major capacity cuts through the latter half of
2008, with plans for more should the need arise in 2009.
With the double-digit capacity cuts and airlines looking to tweak schedules to reduce flights or take other
measures on unprofitable routes, that spare middle seat
buffer will likely be harder to find. So will overhead bin
• Chapter 11 filings. Instead of declaring reorganization bankruptcy, carriers will be forced to merge or go
out of business.
There’s not nearly the cash floating around that airlines saw earlier this decade, and what little there is
will be guarded heavily. Airlines are just too risky these
• Oil shock. Prices might soar or sink, but airlines
have become quite adept at handling extremes. More
than that, they’re preparing for both the highs and the
lows, expecting the worst and hoping for the best.
The bottom line? As US Airways’ Scott Kirby told
analysts this fall: “We now make decisions … with oil
at $150 barrel.”
— Mike Fabey
• GrandLuxe Rail Journeys. The Evergreen, Colo.-based vintage train operation, formerly known as American Orient Express, went out of business in August after
offering luxury rail service for less than a year. GrandLuxe, which offered 10 itineraries, ranging from four to
12 days, aboard a 21-car train, said in a letter to clients
that it was “financially unable to continue operations.”
— Michelle Baran