Hard Landings Ahead

Kenneth Shapiro You’ll have to pardon my ramblings this week, I’m suffering from jetlag a job- related hazard for all of us in the travel industry however this trip I got a bit more than I bargained for, flying to Rome via British Airways through Heathrow. I was one of those baggie-toting nomads you

By: Kenneth Shapiro

You’ll have to pardon my ramblings this week, I’m suffering from jetlag a job- related hazard for all of us in the travel industry however this trip I got a bit more than I bargained for, flying to Rome via British Airways through Heathrow.

I was one of those baggie-toting nomads you might have seen on CNN, and I can tell you firsthand the scene in London was not pretty. While I was lucky I just had my paperback book taken away from me other travelers who had apparently not heard or who misunderstood the news had their eyeglass cases, toiletries and even cell phones taken and thrown straight into the garbage. One 3-year-old next to me had his stuffed Pooh bear pried away from him.

This was in addition to the long lines, flight cancellations and general chaos that rippled through airports across Europe and many other parts of the world. According to workers at LAX, the line for reporting missing baggage stretched as far as they had ever seen it. One British Airways employee told me that upward of 25,000 bags are sitting in Heathrow waiting to get transported back to their owners (although official reports have the number at 5,000) a serious consideration for your clients when deciding whether or not to check their laptops.

Will the situation improve? Most certainly. Will it go back to the way it was before? Most certainly not.

The travel industry has once again been blindfolded and spun around by world events, forced to find its bearings like a child playing pin the tail on the donkey. As troubling as this is for agents, it is the airlines that will ultimately find themselves in the headlights of yet more ground-shifting regulations and increased costs. It is ironic then that this latest obstacle came just as several airlines attempted to force agents to accept service charges and an unrealistic deadline in the GDS wars. For years, agents have been one of the airlines’ strongest allies, and while that relationship has deteriorated, it is clear that from here on out airlines will need good friends and allies. It is just unfortunate that they have burned their bridge to agents.

“It could be worse,” one fellow passenger said to me as we waited in yet another long line. “If those bombs had gone off, then instead of these crowds the terminal would be empty.”

True, and that image should shake us all to the bones. Hopefully the airlines will realize that now is hardly the time to bite the hand that continues to feed them. K.S.

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