Saturday, February 14, 2009

Re-Branded Blackwater Follows Successful Airline Approach

The set of companies we know popularly as Blackwater is completely changed. The trademark that signified rugged professionalism to its supporters and recklessness to its detractors has been retired.

Welcome to Xe.

That's pronounced "Zee."

Not as cool as Blackwater, but with none of the baggage that have cost the family-like company so much grief.

Kind of like Valujet, the revolutionary low-cost airline whose fortunes nosedived when one of its jetliners crashed into the Florida Everglades. Everyone aboard perished. Many in the industry hated Valujet, the upstart who dared challenge the creaky and expensive status quo.

Those who said that cheap, safe, reliable air travel would be impossible - that high-end, high-cost titans like Pan Am, TWA, Northwest and Delta would dominate the industry forever - called Valujet a menace to public safety. The Everglades crash proved it, with critics alleging that low-cost operations came at the price of safety. Valujet's fortunes sank into the swamp.

But the business model was sound. All signficant airlines occasionally suffer catastrophic accidents. Valujet's safety record was fine. But the company couldn't survive on its tarnished brand. So it re-named itself Airtran and spawned a whole new business model that helped put many of the high-cost behemoths out to pasture. Pan Am and TWA are no more. Northwest is being absorbed by Delta.

Enter Airtran's new world that includes other profitable upstarts like Jetblue and Southwest.

Dying airlines like United, with its high costs, lame service and customer-hostile attitudes had to take notice and change if they wanted to survive.

So we'll miss Blackwater. But we'll keep its memory alive on this blog - defending the honor of the people who built the company and made it the success it became, challenging the malicious detractors, and discussing the issues. And we'll watch as Blackwater's re-named components (see post above) continue to innovate, continue to revolutionize and - as with any innovator - to make mistakes and learn from them, becoming better with each tough experience.

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