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 The Brancatelli File

joe NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT...

BY JOE BRANCATELLI

October 6, 2005 -- Nobody asked me, butů

I really do not want to read that Marriott chief executive Bill Marriott told his shareholders that "rarely have we seen a more favorable pricing climate for our industry." I especially don't want to read that when I'm in an aging Courtyard hotel that's charging $179 a night, but hasn't gotten around to implementing last year's brand upgrades yet.

October is a great month to be racing through airports because the bars are full of travelers glued to television screens, living and dying with their favorite baseball team. But everyone is so polite, partially because they don't want to rub a stranger's face in it and partially because they don't know if they're hanging in a bar filled with angry, liquor-fueled fans of the other team.

Nobody asked me, butů

American Airlines is making a big deal of the fact that it's selling "lifetime memberships" in the Admirals Club for the first time since 1997. I want to make a big deal of the fact that American is charging $5,500 for lifetime membership, or the equivalent of almost 14 years of membership at its basic annual price of $400. Anyone confident that American will still be flying on your routes in 14 years? Anyone confident there'll still be an American Airlines in 14 years?

If your answer to the last question is yes, would you like me to introduce you to some lifetime members of the Pan Am Clipper Club, Eastern Ionosphere Club or the TWA Ambassadors Club?

Nobody asked me, butů

AirTran Airways' on-time rating for August was 63.9 percent. That's almost bad enough for business travelers to defect back to Delta Air Lines. Of course, Delta is consolidating flights now that it's bankrupt, so I guess 63.9 percent on-time is better than a cancellation.

Like most business travelers, I'm a big fan of XM Satellite Radio. But now that XM allows most of its channels to be part of AOL Radio and half of XM's channels will be available next month on DirecTV, why am I paying $12.95 a month for XM? I mean, I already have AOL and DirecTVů

Nobody asked me, butů

I'm all for hotels supporting conservation by choosing not to change my towels or sheets every day. Really, I am. But how come I'm not seeing any of the money a hotel conserves when it doesn't change my soft goods every day? I wonder if the lodging industry's sudden conversion to conservation has anything at all to do with Bill Marriott's "favorable pricing climate." Silly me, I thought hotels were conserving to help the climate of the planet.

It's an excellent time to buy yourself a new laptop. Prices have plummeted now that every laptop on the planet seems to be made in China.

Nobody asked me, butů

It's a sign of the times that wags are whispering about a mega-merger between Northwest, Delta and Continental and even I can't figure a reason to be against it. Every time the legacy carriers merge, the smart alternate carriers grow stronger and gain market share.

Have you noticed that the best food at airports these days are burritos from places like Blue Burrito in Phoenix Sky Harbor and Burrito Beach in Chicago/O'Hare?

Nobody asked me, butů

Here's a way to find the money to rebuild the Gulf Coast: a 90 percent excess-profit tax on the oil companies. The oil companies claim that the run-up in gasoline and jet fuel prices is due to market conditions and that they aren't price gouging. Let's take them at their word and give them a 10 percent increase in 2005 profits. But we take anything above that. If the oil companies are right, they don't have any excess profits, so they shouldn't be against this plan, right?

Here's another way to help fund the Gulf Coast reconstruction: We sell the 100,000 tons of excess ice that FEMA bought to the big oil companies for $2 a pound. Then we each get a free bag of ice with every fill-up.

Nobody asked me, butů

I can sleep anywhere--a desktop in a magazine office, an airplane seat, a park bench--so maybe I'm not the target of the hotel bed wars. But besides Westin's Heavenly Bed, which started the crazy competition, can you name which hotel chain features which bed? I didn't think so.

The airlines are hot to add service to India and I can't blame them. India is wildly under-served from the United States. But how come the new flights to India that are already on the schedule have been selling so slowly?

Nobody asked me, butů

I can't tell you how many times I was a passenger on the Ethan Allen, the tour boat that capsized last weekend on Lake George in New York and killed 20 people.

Speaking of aging-baby-boomer childhood memories of family vacations, the Web site of the company that franchises the Howard Johnson Restaurant name shows fewer than two dozen HoJos in the chain. And I happen to know that most on the list have closed, including the iconic location in New York's Times Square. In fact, there are probably fewer than 10 HoJos still in operation.

Nobody asked me, butů

Is Virgin America flying yet?

United Airlines is raising $3 billion by syndicating a loan with the help of its credit-card issuer, Bank One, which is now J.P. Morgan Chase. The airline is also paying about 9 percent for the privilege. Why didn't United chief executive Glenn Tilton simply put a $3 billion cash advance on his company credit card? I mean, who'd notice?

Nobody asked me, butů

It's now 32 months since former Continental chief executive Gordon Bethune uttered what I contemporaneously called his two-sentence autopsy of the Big Six: "If you have to be in San Francisco for a presentation tomorrow, you are going. If I say it's $1,200 or it's $800, you are still going." As I mentioned in that column, Bethune was then charging $1,159 walk-up for a flight from Continental's Cleveland hub to San Francisco. I just checked. Cleveland-San Francisco tomorrow is $519 walk-up. First class is $569.

I really like that Residence Inn by Marriott ad with the kid who puts family photos and a drawing of Rocky, the dog, in his dad's luggage. But next time I see the spot on CNN, I'm gonna tape it and run it in slow motion. I want to see if a copy of that omnipresent painting of Bill Marriott and his dad is in the pile. I mean, given the "favorable pricing environment" and allů

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