The Brancatelli File
FROM THE ROAD
BY JOE BRANCATELLI
April 10, 2003 -- Every once in a while, I turn this column over to you because I believe that this is the indisputable truth: No one writes with as much wit and conviction about life on the road as you do.
Every week I get more than a thousand E-mails from you that reflect the unbelievable diversity and creativity of business travelers. You see things the mobility moguls miss. You have opinions and feeling forged by the rigors of the road. Nobody knows the troubles you've seen--but, thankfully, you're smart enough to scribble them down and send them my way.
I am honored to be your Cybercypher and your messenger. So, without further introductory patter, here are some of your dispatches from the road.
SMILE THOUGH YOUR AIRLINE IS BREAKING
"I recently flew on US Airways. Every employee was polite and personable. I know it can't be easy to put on a smiling face for hours when your employer is going down the tubes."
BIG MAN, LITTLE MAN
"Everybody knows that the airlines expect us to chop our legs off to fit into their seats. But I don't know how many times I go to take a shower in a hotel bathroom and the shower head is so low that I have to bend backwards just to wash my hair. I'm only 5-feet, 10-inches tall. A recent hotel stay gave me a shower head that hit my chin. What are hotels thinking?"
TO TELL THE TRUTH
"Message to the airlines: No matter why the delay has occurred, give me the straight scoop. I won't think worse of you for it and, in fact, will find you to be truly customer service minded. A chance to walk to another terminal to get a snack or rent a car and explore a city for a few hours will make me a lot happier than looking at all of your promotional posters at the gate."
A TIP ABOUT TIPPING
"I'd like to put in a word for hotel chambermaids. They do a good job, a hard job and everybody knows they're underpaid. Some people leave a tip for them in the room, in cash, when they check out. But isn't there a better way to take care of these folks? In restaurants, there's always a spot on your credit-card receipt to write in a tip. Why not on a hotel's credit-card receipt? Why not on an express-checkout statement? Why not make it easy to tip the chambermaid?"
IT'S NOT HEAVY, IT'S THE SAME CARRY-ON
"My wife and I bought 'round-the-world' tickets and headed west from Beijing to Frankfurt to New York on Lufthansa. The trouble started at Frankfurt airport. The gate agent made us check our carry-on. This was the same carry-on that was okay to keep with us on the Peking flight, but it was deemed 'too heavy' for the Frankfurt-New York flight on the same aircraft. It weighed below the maximum, but that didn't matter. My wife had to unpack the 'necessities' she needed for the flight in front of more than a hundred passengers waiting behind us at the counter."
THE ROOM IS ALIVE WITH THE SOUND OF MUSIC
"One thing I hate is when, after spending 20 minutes trying to find a good radio station in my hotel room, the housekeeper changes the station. The next morning I'm waking up to blaring rock/hip hop/salsa music! Leave my radio alone!"
A COKE BY ANY OTHER NAME, ON ANY OTHER AIRLINE
"I've gotten so annoyed with Delta and US Airways that I've tried the likes of AirTran, Southwest, and America West. I've found the Big Six employees all too often 'taking it out' on the customers for their layoffs and givebacks. The no-frills personnel are exceedingly professional, polite and efficient. And, after all, it's the same Coke."
GOOD BAGS COME TO THOSE WHO WAIT
"On my way from Zurich to Boston, one of my bags failed to appear. Two weeks later, it shows up at my office with a reroute tag from Libyan Arab Airlines. The bag wound up in Tripoli, then Vienna, Frankfurt and finally Boston. It took two weeks and a trip to a country which we politically hate, but, to the Libyans' credit, they sent it back with nothing missing."
AN OLIVE A DAY KEEPS THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT AWAY
"I recently flew business class on the Northwest/KLM service from Los Angeles to Amsterdam. When offered a drink, I asked for a martini with two olives. I was told that they had no olives. I said something to the effect that martinis are popular and that it was hard to believe that I was the only traveler in the world who might ask for an olive. The attendant told me, 'Remember, this is Business Class, not First Class.' Now I carry a small jar of olives with me."
DRIVE, HE SAID
"I wish I could get inside the head of an airline executive for one week! What in the world makes them think that they can make their airlines profitable by continuing to take away benefits and services? Now if the place I have to go to is less than a 10-hour drive, I drive. Flying just isn't worth the hassle any more. I've had it."
ALL FOR ONE AND SERVICE FOR NONE
"I was flying Continental from Key West to Tampa to Cleveland. After they grounded the Key West-Tampa flight, they said they'd reroute everyone through Miami. Four flights then left for Miami with none of the canceled flyers on them. I asked if my being a OnePass Platinum customer mattered at all. The guy at the desk told me, 'No sir. We treat all of our fliers like they're Platinum.' My comment to him: 'Maybe you shouldn't. I had to fly lots of miles with Continental to reach this level, and if that doesn't count for some sort of consideration, then you're missing the point.' "
LIFE--AND DEATH--ON THE ROAD
"Business travelers need to remember what we give up to be on the road. I'm with a project team from Michigan working in New Jersey. Recently, one of our mechanical engineers found out that his wife passed away, quite unexpectedly, at home. Without giving an explanation, he split for the airport. When I found out, I sped to the airport. When I got there, he was just getting off of the plane because the flight was canceled. I stayed with him and watched him struggle through an afternoon of canceled and delayed flights, fighting back tears, just wanting to be home with his kids."
This column originally appeared at JoeSentMe.com
Copyright © 1993-2004 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.