“Wal-Mart Airlines is now boarding passengers in rows 16 and higher?” Sound far-fetched? According to the Knight Ridder News Service, Wal-Mart is now testing on its employees at corporate headquarters in Bentonville, AR its planned internet-based “travel store”, which will sell airline tickets, car rentals and hotel reservations. The company that is now seeking to get into the banking industry, and is already vertically integrated retail products from photo processing and pharmacy to groceries, now wants to take away the meal ticket from existing travel agents and online travel businesses. The Wal-Mart travel store will reportedly be on line in the year 2000, as Wal-Mart refashions its existing internet address. Online photo and pharmacy will also be part of the deal. For those consumers who are not online, Wal-Mart will also offer travel store kiosks in some 60 stores.
Move over Donald Trump! While you’re busy running for President, is Wal-Mart busy preparing to get into the hotel business? Or the rental car business? What about Wal-Mart Airlines, with the motto: “Everyday low flights”? All of this vertical integration into new “products” may do very little for the economy except put other people out of work. Independent travel agents are only the latest to be targeted. But before you buy an airline ticket from Wal-Mart, remember that you still have the choice to support your local, independent businesses. The company that now dominates the retail market on the ground, now has its eyes on the sky.