TW: 50 YEARS OF
9/11: A day of infamy
By any measure the most far-reaching
event to affect the travel industry in the
last 50 years was the terrorists’ attack of
Sept. 11, 2001.
The attack had devastating personal con-
sequences for countless Americans but in
terms of the economic effects, no sector
of the economy felt the effects more than
commercial aviation and the travel industry
that depends on it.
Never before or since had the government
felt it necessary to bring air travel to a com-
And even when the airlines resumed service three days later, it
was clear that the world had changed. The demand for business
and leisure travel began to plummet, and new security hassles at
airports made matters even worse.
A travel recession set in. Travel companies cut back. Some went
out of business. Cruise lines hastily rearranged their schedules,
bringing their ships closer to home.
The government set up a financial aid program for the airlines
and, for the first time, made disaster relief loans available to busi-
nesses on the basis of economic impact rather than physical prox-
imity to Ground Zero.
As the industry wai t ed
out 2002, travel agen ts’
base commission rat es
hastened their descent to
zero, and United and U S
Airways filed to reorga -
nize in bankruptcy.
Despite the dampen -
ing effects of the Gulf
War and the SARS
scare in 2003, the in-
dustry has largely
recovered, but ev-
erywhere there is a
sense that the expe-
rience of travel has
Airline rebating was against the law,
but it seemed that everyone was doing it
Rebating was a very hot topic in the 1970s and 1980s. The Federal Aviation Act prohibited airlines (and their agents) from offering passengers any form of kickback or discount from the government-approved published fare. Even after deregulation, the prohibition lived on
until 1983 for domestic travel and survived even longer in international
Business is business, however, and over the years airlines and agents alike
found various reasons, and methods, to bend the rules. In the winter and early spring of
1982, the issue seemed to take on a life of its own, as the above headlines indicate.
At one point, a Washington travel agent staged a “sting” operation by buying a discounted ticket from another retailer who was working with a coupon broker. She got a $17
rebate on a $666 purchase and blew the whistle.
Some airlines pulled their plates from the issuing agency, but it stayed in business, as did
the coupon broker.