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 The Brancatelli File

joe NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT...

BY JOE BRANCATELLI

July 21, 2005 -- Nobody asked me, but…

I'm an agnostic when it comes to cellphones on planes. Allow them or ban them, it's all good. But cellphone opponents do have a moral and logical problem: Why are personal cellphones a social affront, but $3-a-minute Airfones and satellite phones okay? Are only rich and/or profligate travelers allowed to annoy us with in-flight chatter?

I'm also an agnostic on the issue of Love Field and the Wright Amendment. Neither American nor Southwest airlines is being honest or deserves support. American had no trouble flying from Love a couple of years ago when it wanted to knock Legend Airlines out of the market. And Southwest hasn't complained about the supposedly unfair and uncompetitive Wright Amendment for more than a decade because it didn't suit their expansion strategy.

Nobody asked me, but…

London mayor Ken Livingstone said Western nations' lust for oil is partially to blame for Islamic terrorism and the London transit bombings. Unfortunately, Kenny Boy doesn't know his Pax Britannia. The Brits got involved with the Middle East after World War I because they wanted a guaranteed land route to India. It was empire, not oil.

Can someone explain to me again why we can't just divide Iraq into its three natural, pre-Churchill constituencies? What would be wrong with a Sunni state called Mesopotamia, a Shia state called Basra and Kurdistan?

Nobody asked me, but…

What are EOS, Fly First and the other paper airlines that hope to launch U.S.-U.K flights going to do when Willie Walsh, the incoming chief executive of British Airways, applies the lessons of Aer Lingus to BA's transatlantic fares? If he was selling walk-up business-class fares to Dublin for $1,500 one-way, how low do you think he can drive premium-class London fares?

Anyone out there notice how Alaska Airlines has gone in the tank since slashing about $350 million from its operations? The once-admired airline was dead last in on-time performance in May. It also cancelled more flights in May than any full-service jet carrier and reported the highest rate (9.1 percent) of scheduled flights late more than 70 percent of the time. And just for bad measure, it was 14th out of 20 in baggage-handling efficiency and had the second-highest number of passenger complaints.

Nobody asked me, but…

Why should anyone be interested in giving Northwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines antitrust immunity? Northwest is whining that if it doesn't get the immunity with its SkyTeam buddy Delta, it can't keep its code-share with KLM because KLM is owned by Air France and Air France is Delta's partner. And I want all these guys conspiring on fares because?

Anyone flown Virgin America yet? Oh, not this year, either? Gee, what a surprise. Richard Branson is the one guy I don't want to be buddied up with if I ever have to play that "trust" game where you let yourself fall backward and rely on your partner to catch you.

Nobody asked me, but…

Why, exactly, would Chief Justice William Rehnquist resign? He's got the best gig on the planet, the robes with the cool chevrons, a lifetime appointment and summers off.

People fretting over the left-right/liberal-conservative balance of the Supreme Court are missing the real fight. The court has coalesced into two legally incompatible camps: The Literalists, led by Antonin Scalia, who think nothing that isn't written in the Constitution passes muster, and the Living Documenters, led by Stephen Breyer, who think the Constitution should be interpreted for 21st Century issues. The good news: That's an argument worth having.

Nobody asked me, but…

Aloha Airlines lost an arbitrator's ruling over an issue with its pilots and now it wants the bankruptcy court to set aside the arbitrator's decision. Now do you understand why airline schedules and airline service promises mean nothing?

Aer Lingus management made much of its voluntary redundancy program last year. Now an Irish newspaper has come across a memo written by an Aer Lingus manager that suggested the carrier was considering "environmental push factors" like demeaning uniforms, tedious training courses and bad shifts to encourage employees to take the buyout. Another tactic: the "tap on the shoulder" to tell specific employees that they had no future at the airline. Now do you understand why airlines treat passengers the way they do?

Nobody asked me, but…

How come none of the bankrupt or near-bankrupt carriers, which have all bludgeoned their employees for massive givebacks, have ever asked for a dime back from the parade of top executives who left with hundreds of millions in salary, retirement funds, perks and buyouts?

My one concession to the London terror bombings has been to buy a sapphire micro-light from RoadWired. Somehow, having a tiny flashlight always at hand seems like a rational precaution.

Nobody asked me, but...

Keith Olbermann is the only guy worth watching on the cable-news networks. He asks the questions the blow-dried, big-name newsmen are too jaded--or too scared--to ask.

It stinks that there are no books in print by Jimmy Cannon, the brilliant sports columnist who invented Nobody asked me, but...

This column originally appeared at JoeSentMe.com.

Copyright © 1993-2005 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.