Michael J. Keady, founder of Brendan Travel, the company which became Brendan Worldwide Vacations, and who later became president of California tour operator Continental Express, died on February 6 in Santa Monica, CA.
In 1964, Keady was the first travel agent to obtain an ITC (“inclusive tour charter”) license from the Civil Aeronautics Board, the federal department which then oversaw air transportation matters in the United States. With that license, Brendan Travel began chartering flights to Ireland, offering prices substantially lower than normal airfares at the time, creating a large new market in overseas travel to Europe.
In a eulogy to Keady, Jim Murphy, a longtime friend and partner in Brendan from 1969-1975, said, “That price allowed entire families and middle class tourists to visit Europe that could not have afforded to travel otherwise. The savings meant the difference between going and staying home."
“Michael was a visionary, a crack salesman and one of the smartest travel men I ever met” said Murphy. "He advertised three weeks in Europe, visiting Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France and London, including airfare, from $699, starting a booming industry in European tour and travel.”
Keady and Murphy, along with Tyler Tanaka of Japan & Orient Tours, Paul Albrecht of Globus Gateway and Michael Alford of Unitours, developed the framework for the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) in 1972 in order to provide travel agents a benchmark standard for reputable tour companies, following a number of high profile bankruptcies by charter operators and subsequent negative press had given the industry a black eye. Keady was instrumental in drawing up the by-laws of the organization.
In 1973, Keady left what had become Brendan Tours to head Pathways International, a start-up global tour operation for the Bank of America. The Northern California Chapter of ASTA, with the support of ASTA National, sued the Bank of America on the grounds that the U.S. Comptroller of the Currency had ruled in earlier cases that national banks were barred from operating travel programs. After a San Francisco Bay Area judge enjoined the Bank from proceeding with Pathways until a trial could be held and, rather than proceed with a trial, B of A capitulated and cancelled the Pathways project, two years after Keady had begun to negotiate its tour program components around the world.
Returning to Southern California in 1975, Keady purchased the struggling Beverly Hills-based Continental Express which had a staff of 150, and operated charter flights to Israel, Hawaii and Mexico in addition to scheduled airline programs to Europe, the South Pacific and Asia.
Keady is survived by children Kieron, Brian and Maureen and grandchildren Christina, Erin, Niamh, Frances and Colm.
Donations in his memory should be sent to:
American Kidney Fund
6110 Executive Boulevard, Suite 1010
Rockville, MD 20852