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Amusement Law: How the Airline and Amusement Industries are Tied Together

Opinion

The answer is simple:  because many of the largest amusement facilities rely on big doses of airline-delivered guests to make their economics work.  Meaning that, the airline and amusement industries are closely tied together as they rely on each others successes while trying to avoid each others failures.

Take for instance, Central Florida—arguably the recreation epicenter for the nation, if not the entire world.  Many of the area’s leading resorts (like Disney World, Universal Orlando, and the Busch parks) witness large portions of their guests arrive by plane.  Unfortunately, it seems that almost every week or so, more news comes out announcing airline cuts to Orlando:

The turmoil racking the U.S. airline industry will soon claim more jobs in Orlando.

American Airlines and Delta Air Lines subsidiary Comair Inc. alerted state officials this week that they intend to cut a combined 169 jobs at Orlando International Airport beginning in August.

American said it could lay off as many as 63 people at OIA, including airport agents, fleet-service workers and local managers. It is part of 221 job cuts American says it will make across Florida, with the other job losses at airports in Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Tampa.

Comair, which flies regional jets under the Delta Connection banner, said it will close its entire station at OIA. The airline said 106 employees will lose their jobs.

The companies blamed the job losses on the combination of rising fuel prices and a deteriorating U.S. economy.

Worse still, the problems are not limited to only a couple of carriers.  Rather, Delta has announced it is cutting direct service to Orlando from over 10 existing cities, while low-cost (and Orlando-based) AirTran is also making cuts.

All in all, the New York Times is predicting tough times for many tourist travelers:

This week, the country’s two biggest airlines, American and United, announced plans to lop cities like Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and San Luis Obispo, Calif., out of their networks. Cuts also are taking place on international routes to cities like London and Buenos Aires, and even to popular vacation destinations in the United States like Las Vegas, Honolulu and Orlando.

With more reductions coming next year, all the domestic industry’s growth over the last decade will most likely be lost. “The U.S. industry is undertaking a historic restructuring, ” Gary Chase, an industry analyst with Lehman Brothers, wrote in a research report Friday.

While the other U.S. amusement heavyweight locale—Southern California—may be better-situated to withstand these changes because of its large, local guest population, amusement destinations betrothed to the plane like Orlando, Vegas, and the growing Dubai entertainment empire, should expect fundamental changes in the way that tourists travel.

This could mean embracing more train travel.  Or even more drastic changes like curtailing new growth and/or selling off land once planned for expansion.  In both cases, the resort destination segment of the amusement industry can expect major changes sooner rather than later.

Of course, this may mean that local and regional operators like Six Flags and Cedar Fair (or even the nearby FEC) could be the beneficiaries of decreased distance traveling.

Whatever the course of action, the industry undoubtedly faces its second great challenge of this decade (9/11 being the first).  How it responds may literally be a question of survival for many.

Quick Hits

•    A lawsuit by Joyland Amusement Park owners against the City of Wichita, Kansas and the park’s former operators appears likely to be filed.

•    The Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom lawsuit may be expanded to add additional plaintiffs

•    Disney World sues over alleged trademark infringement and is sued by the former employee who brought a handgun onto the property (as discussed in last week’s column)

•    Finally, a variety of legal happenings in the Wild West City accidental shooting matter:

A man who allegedly brought real bullets to the Wild West City theme park, which led to an accidental shooting of a cowboy actor two years ago, was approved Monday for a pre-trial intervention program that could lead to all charges against him being dropped.

Also on Monday, two companies that owned the Byram theme park at the time of the shooting pleaded not guilty to several charges, including aggravated assault, and a hearing was postponed for park owner Michael Stabile to give him time to hire an attorney.

See you next week…

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