Reporting Bob Weiss
BOSTON (CBS) – Rex Trailer of WBZ-TV Boomtown fame, who died last week, was also a boom to travel in New England.
Starting 1969, Trailer partnered with Crimson Travel, then a small travel agency, to take parents and kids on chartered flights from Logan Airport to Disneyland in California over the February school vacation week.
For more than two decades, Crimson and Rex Trailer took over 25,000 people to faraway places including Australia and Ireland as the relationship grew.
Today, group travel looks easy, but in the 1960’s it was a new concept. Airline fares were federally regulated and the carriers were not interested in selling their seats in large numbers to travel agencies.
The government set the fares so that airlines could show a profit with just over 50 percent of their seats occupied. New aircrafts powered by jets led to larger planes and faster trips between major cities.
Along came Crimson Travel, operated by the Paresky family. David Paresky had written a paper in the early sixties at The Harvard Business School that indicated only 15 percent of people in the U.S. had flown by air. His goal was to make group travel affordable. His wife Linda set about organizing the travel agenda.
“We had to find someone that people would feel confident with when they traveled,” said Linda Paresky in a recent interview. “Rex Trailer was perfect because he really liked people and was so well-known.”
It also helped that Crimson Travel was the first agency to use television advertising in the Boston market.
Crimson got the government to issue a special one week charter fare and convinced TWA to make seats available on a Saturday flight from Boston to Los Angeles because virtually no one flew on that day of the week to the west coast.
A year later, they were filling several planes from American Airlines.
The all-inclusive seven-day trip included airline tickets, hotels, transfers, three meals a day and entrance to several attractions while in California. Rex Trailer was always on hand at mealtime, signing autographs and posing for pictures. He was always smiling and greeting the families.
Families were also encouraged to send their children alone. Three nurses, a band and Crimson Travel staff members coordinated hundreds of details. One of which was how to get the group across the highway from their hotel to Disneyland. The L.A. police were called in to stop traffic.
The initial cost for the week’s trip was $199 for kids and $299 for adults. The largest trips had about 2,300 people on board.
“It was an opportunity to take people around the world and Rex Trailer was always there to help,” said Linda Paresky.
The airline industry was de-regulated in 1978. Crimson Travel merged with American Express in the 1990’s.
All Things Travel Reports with Bob Weiss can be heard on WBZ News Radio