Up Front With Martin B. Deutsch

martin WRAPPING UP 1988


December 1, 1988 -- Another year has rolled by and I find myself with the usual December dilemma: How to wrap up the previous twelve months for the readers of Frequent Flyer magazine without sounding too trite and repetitive. After hours and days of wrestling with this complex challenge, I’ve decided to take the easy way out with partial items and half-formed thoughts that have accumulated on my desk and in my mind since we drew the curtain on 1987.

Frankly, 1988 was a rather humdrum year in terms of travel-industry developments. For all intents and purposes, airline mergers in the United States virtually disappeared since there were very few airlines left to merge. However, the compulsion to couple moved abroad with a significant marriage between British Airways (the survivor) and British Caledonian.

Less all-encompassing relationships were also begun, such as those between United and British Airways, as well as Continental and SAS. Furthermore, the urge to merge spread to the cruise industry, and there were signs that hotels were about to enter these sweepstakes; witness the Pritzker family’s bid for Ramada. (The Pritzkers own Hyatt.)

This was also the year in which a sluggish stock market was saved from collapse and boredom only by the ongoing takeover mania, where foreign companies–from Japan and Britain, in particular–were playing monopoly for real assets with badly depleted dollars. And let us not forget (those of you who haven’t already) the dullest U.S. election campaign in recent history, which put voters to sleep by the millions. (I mean were these guys running for the White House or for the leadership of a local Boy Scout pack? Give us a break.)

As the tone of this column so far indicates, it’s obvious that I’m suffering from the onset-of-winter doldrums, and it explains why I’ve had a hard time getting this column off the typewriter and into print. It’s also why I enlisted the creative genius of Frequent Flyer’s editors to develop at least a partial wish-list for the coming year wish-list for the coming year. Here’s what Jane Levere, Mary Arendt, Susan Comolli, and I would like to see in the frequent flyer’s Christmas stocking on the evening of December 24:

A lifetime subscription to Frequent Flyer magazine.

An amendment to the Constitution: one luggage carry-on policy, under the Federal Aviation Administration, invisible and with liberty and justice for all. A corollary to this fantasy would include a set of inscrutable luggage.

The elimination of user-friendly hubs and the return of non-stop flights.

The passage of the Airline Passenger Protection Act, now hung up in Congress, which would require airlines to give its customers free tickets if their bags are more than two hours late.

A fax machine in every hotel room.

Short lines at U.S. Customs and Immigration, especially at JFK in New York.

The introduction of a new bill: The Frequent Flyer Protection Act, which Congress would write only after consulting all those constituents who have accumulated an average of 150,000 miles.

Legislation that would require airlines to tell the truth about delays.

Business trips to St. Moritz—rather than St. Louis.

A single credit card that does everything, from remembering your anniversary to self-destructing when you’re about to exceed your limit.

Shoes that never need polishing.

Hermes scarves, Church’s shoes, Saville Row shirts and suits, and a private jet.

We could go on…and on–but you get the picture. Maybe you’d like to drop us a line to let us know what you’d like in your frequent flyer Christmas stocking.

While you’re thinking that over, all of us here at Frequent Flyer would like you and yours all the very best for the New Year. That includes health, happiness, and a great deal of success–in that order–as well as flights that are safe, convenient, and…on time.

This column originally appeared in Frequent Flyer magazine.

Copyright © 1991-2007 by Martin B. Deutsch. All rights reserved.