The airlines lobby changes its name — you still pay for baggage

Al Kamen
Columnist November 29, 2011

The Air Transport Association (ATA), the venerable trade group of the main U.S. airlines, is changing its name to “Airlines for America” apparently with the slogan “We Connect the World.”

But after 75 years of being known by its original name, why bother to change now? After all, these rebranding efforts are not cheap. In fact, we’ve heard they can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars — or more. Some organizations hire pollsters to test possible options; others use focus groups before deciding on a new name.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

And once the decision is made, you’ve got to change the stationery, signage, business cards and other related marketing materials; redo the Web site; and so on.

An ATA official, asked why the name change, told us: “We think Airlines for America sounds like the perfect name for such an important industry that literally connects the U.S. to the global economy.”

The new name is kinda catchy — if fatuous. And the group says it’s A4A for short, presumably so as not to be AFA, which stands for the Association of Flight Attendants, the dreaded union that represents about 60,000 airline workers.

One wag suggested the name Airlines for Themselves (A4T), given the alacrity with which the airlines pocketed some $400 million — rather than reduce fares — this summer when a federal ticket tax expired for a couple of weeks.

All the majors but Alaska Airlines continued to collect the 7.5 percent tax and a ticket fee. (There was some halfhearted chat in Congress about recouping that windfall, but naturally that went nowhere.)

Apparently this move — the new name was registered Sept. 28 — had been held close pending a big rollout Wednesday night on the Hill.

Whatever the name, many members, as we noted this summer, will still try to charge for blankets, bags and legroom and stick it to active-duty service members trying to rebook their flights.

Barney’s Greatest Hits

Politicians are most often solicitous, and their responses to even the most outrageous affronts are typically, well, politic. Not so with Barney Frank. The Massachusetts Democrat, who announced this week that he will retire after more than 30 years in the House, has a tongue that’s more acid than silver.

Our last conversation — a brief one at that — was many years ago when Frank called even though we’d written nothing about him. He said he was just calling to say, “I hate your column.” Well, he’s not alone.

On the other hand, we’ll miss his quips and pithy, sometimes withering comments (some of which his erstwhile campaign compiled at www.barney2012.
com/quotes
). Here are just a few of our favorites:

●“On what planet do you spend most of your time? Ma’am, trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to have an argument with a dining room table — I have no interest in doing it.”

— During a town hall meeting about health-care reform in 2009, Frank handled a woman’s question about President Obama’s “Nazi” politics in typical form.

●“The problem with the war in Iraq is not so much the intelligence as the stupidity.”

●“This bill is the legislative equivalent of crack. It yields a short-term high but does long-term damage to the system, and it’s expensive to boot.”

— Explaining his “no” vote on anti-drug legislation in 1986.

●“I don’t begrudge Ronald Reagan an occasional nap. We must understand it’s not the dozing off of Ronald Reagan that causes us problems. It’s what he does on those moments when he’s awake.”

●“At a time of great crisis with mortgage foreclosures and autos, he says we only have one president at a time. I’m afraid that overstates the number of presidents we have. He’s got to remedy that situation.”

— Calling on President-elect Obama in 2008 to play a more aggressive role in the economic issues of the day.

●“If you’re not able to work closely with people you despise, you can’t really work here.”

— On getting along in Congress.

●“We don’t get ourselves dry-cleaned.”

— Dismissing a conservative reporter’s questions about whether gays in the military would shower with non-gay personnel.

●“That word was being used the same way you would say . . . ‘I went to a moderate bar.’ ”

— On House Republicans’ claims that a GOP leadership candidate was rejected because he was “too moderate.”

●And our favorite: “It’s really not a political question. It’s an aesthetics question. It would be like adding a fourth Stooge.”

— Assessing a proposal to expand the Boston City Council.

A drumroll, please

The submissions are in, the judges have had their say, and so we hope to announce in Friday’s column the winners of the most recent Loop contest — the one asking which phrases uttered by President Obama would stick in history’s memory.

Stay posted for the unveiling of the winning entries, and see all of the contestants in the comments section at wapo.st/loopcontest.

I spy . . . a dull holiday

First Justice and the FBI, now even the spooks at Langley are cutting back. Reporters got the bad news Tuesday on CIA Director David Petraeus’s first holiday reception. “I regret to advise that your invitation is not, in fact, lost in the mail,” the
e-mail said. “Reflecting the constrained and possibly worsening fiscal climate, this year’s event has been greatly scaled back.”

The agency’s public affairs office, however, will be hosting an off-the-record cocktail reception in January. There’ll be hors d’oeuvres — but, “because of governmental belt-tightening,” don’t expect a lavish spread.

It’s official

Frederick “Rick” Barton, a State Department senior adviser and former U.S. representative to the U.N. Economic and Social Council in New York, has been tapped to be assistant secretary for conflict and stabilization operations and coordinator for reconstruction and stabilization.

Arun Majumdar, now director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy
(ARPA-E), is going to be nominated as undersecretary of energy at the Energy Department.

With Emily Heil

Research maven Lucy Shackelford contributed to this column.

Follow In the Loop on Twitter (@intheloopwp) and the blog (washingtonpost.com/intheloop).

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