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 The Brancatelli File

joe NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT...

BY JOE BRANCATELLI

September 6, 2001 -- Nobody asked me, but…

I'm tired of hearing major-airline executives moan about how business travelers have "disappeared." We haven't disappeared. We're hiding. The corporate elite have abandoned commercial carriers for private jets. Other frequent flyers have switched to lower-fare carriers such as Southwest, AirTran, Frontier and JetBlue. Many of the rest of us are aping leisure travelers and buying advance-purchase, Saturday-stay fares. And none of us are coming back until walk-up prices go down and service improves.

Have you noticed how airline pooh-bahs aren't whining about how they need new airports and more runways anymore? Of course, it doesn't help their case when loose cannons like Delta chief executive Leo Mullin says people who live in neighborhoods around airports will just have to accept that their homes and businesses will be destroyed to accommodate the airlines' whims.

Can someone tell me again why business travelers constantly complain about the quality and quantity of airline food? C'mon, folks, these guys can't run airlines. Why do you think they can run a restaurant? And why do you even think they owe you an in-flight meal? I want an airline to give me a safe plane, a fair fare and an on-time flight. I can get my own food, thank you.

Nobody asked me, but…

Does anyone know who those people are in the Mandarin Oriental hotel ads? And why should we care if they are fans?

Greta Van Sustern of CNN's The Point says a lot of interesting things about being a business traveler. That's probably because she actually is a frequent flyer, not a lawyer playing one on TV.

I know the mainstream media is enraptured by Up in the Air, Walter Kirn's novel about a business traveler who is obsessed with frequent-travel miles and points. But I don't know a single frequent flyer who has actually read the book.

Nobody asked me, but…

TWA employees are beginning to realize that the American Airlines buyout they supported so enthusiastically isn't their ticket to continued employment after all. American's empty promise to save the jobs of all TWA employees quickly morphed into all union employees, then all union employees in the United States. Now it turns out that American's idea of saving jobs isn't even allowing most remaining TWA employees to keep the jobs they already had. Many are being told to accept demotions or reassignments to distant cities--or to go home with nothing. None of this is surprising--or even a bad business decision--but it certainly proves again that no airline executive should ever be believed when he wraps himself in the flag and claims he wants to save jobs or serve business travelers.

John Dasburg, the recently departed chief executive of Northwest, is once again looking out for No. 1 now that he's CEO of Burger King. He'll score a bonus of more than $20 million if he helps Burger King's parent company sell off the fast-food chain at a premium price. Meanwhile, Burger King opposes a plan to raise the federal minimum wage from its current $5.15 an hour. Let me break that down for you: Burger King employees would have to work a collective 3,883,495 hours at minimum wage to earn $20 million.

There is hope for folks who fear the bizarre National Transportation Safety Board report will forever bury the truth about the cause of the TWA 800 disaster. It's taken 56 years, but the Navy last week finally admitted that a torpedo from a Nazi submarine sank the USS Eagle off the coast of Portland, Maine. Despite eyewitness accounts and testimony from the ship's crew, the Navy had previously insisted a boiler-room accident destroyed the Eagle and killed 49 sailors in 1945.

Nobody asked me, but…

The worst airports in continental Europe to change planes are Paris/Charles De Gaulle, Brussels/Zaventem and Milan/Malpensa. Why use those rat mazes when you can fly through Amsterdam, Zurich, Frankfurt or even Copenhagen?

Delta deserves credit for protecting the status of many of its elite SkyMiles members who were disrupted by the Comair/Delta Express strike earlier this year. Sure, it's a no-brainer business move, but you didn't see United doing it last year after its operational meltdown offended tens of thousands of elite Mileage Plus members.

Aren't you thrilled that United and Microsoft have joined forces to offer a special deal on the MSN Internet service? I certainly can't wait to give my online business to those two titans of customer service. Meanwhile, have you noticed the AOL Welcome Screen lately? Almost every line, photo and link promotes a product owned by the parent company, AOL Time Warner Everything. My solution? If AOL plugs it, I don't buy it, watch it, read it or listen to it.

This column originally appeared at biztravel.com.

Copyright © 1993-2004 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.