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 The Brancatelli File

joe NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT...

BY JOE BRANCATELLI

February 22, 2007 -- Nobody asked me, but…

Despite the endless media hype surrounding the "success" of the US Airways-America West merger, the operational reality continues to prove otherwise. In the last couple of weeks, the airline had to admit that it botched the reconfiguration of its Airbus A320s (the smaller first-class cabin has virtually no storage space) and the new Web site continues to have glitches like "some purchasers were receiving an error when they attempted to buy a ticket." Oh, and the black hole that is its Philadelphia hub continues to lose, misplace and delay baggage at an alarming rate.

I shed no tears for US Airways chief executive Doug Parker, who's going to jail for a day next month for a DUI on the night that his hostile takeover attempt of Delta collapsed. It's Parker's third DUI and fourth alcohol-related incident in his life and no one has the right to ridicule a person with substance-abuse issues. But life on the road would be a lot better if more airline CEOs saw the inside of a cell--or flew in their own coach cabins.

Nobody asked me, but…

No one should be shocked that the two parent companies of four car-rental firms--Dollar, Thrifty, National and Alamo--are discussing some kind of mega-combination. The only given in the car-rental business is corporate chaos. Hertz has been bought, sold and gone public 14 times in its 90-year history. Avis, as usual, has tried harder. It's changed hands 15 times in 61 years.

I've just assumed that Hilton will eventually have a line of Paris Hilton suites at its hotels. I mean, let's be honest, Paris Hilton is famous, even if it's just for being famous. And she is family. But I do feel compelled to report that Nicky Hilton, Paris' sister, just lost her gig to have a couple of hotels named after her. Of course, her deal wasn't with Hilton Hotels, so that's what you get for crossing the family…

Nobody asked me, but…

Call it the President Ford Effect: One of the reasons why airlines hold passengers hostage on planes these days is that they are afraid to roll out those big, metal staircases. Airlines prefer to warehouse passengers--which, weirdly, is not illegal--than face a lawsuit if a customer tumbles down the staircase.

There's no chance that Congress will pass a useful Passenger's Bill of Rights. But if it does, I want to be named Chief Justice of the Passenger's Supreme Court. Does anyone know what happened to Rehnquist's robe? You know, the one with gold chevrons on the sleeves.

Nobody asked me, but…

The last time that business travelers heard from Allen Sviridoff, he mounted an honorable, but largely unsuccessful, effort to convince hotels to open nightclubs again. Now Sviridoff is promoting the Return to Romance Music Festival in Honolulu next month. The lineup is a smashing mix of jazz greats (Patti Austin), Broadway stars (Brian Stokes Mitchell), pop legends (Natalie Cole, Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald) and some of Hawaii's very best local musicians. If you're in town between March 1 and March 11, catch a show.

Speaking of Honolulu, foodies have reason to rejoice: The brilliant George Mavrothalassitis, who created Chef Mavro with his own money and in his own image, is opening a second restaurant. Cassis Honolulu will offer George's casual take on local favorites. Chef Mavro is one of the world's greatest restaurants. I expect Cassis will also be a culinary smash.

Nobody asked me, but…

I warned you last month that public charters were often fly-by-night operations. And now Western has folded after less than a month of flying.

This is somehow unfair: The actor Ralph Fiennes and a flight attendant on a Qantas flight were noticed joining the Mile High Club on a flight this month from Darwin to Mumbai. The flight attendant was sacked and Fiennes got a lot of free publicity.

Nobody asked me, but…

Larry Seidlin, the wacko judge in the Anna Nicole Smith Florida case, is single-handedly rehabilitating the reputation of Judge Ito. And he's giving all us bald guys from the boroughs a really bad name.

Another government in Italy fell this week, after just nine months. I know it's silly, but Italy seems so much more seductive when the government is in chaos. Besides, I think I'm fourth in line to run the caretaker government.

Nobody asked me, but…

JetBlue chief executive David Neeleman has now done everything but Jimmy Swaggart's I-have-sinned-against-you-my-lord routine after his airline's Valentine's Day meltdown. But if Neeleman has engaged in overkill, I challenge you to find a single apology by American Airlines chief executive Gerard Arpey for American's nightmare in Austin in December. In fact, try to find a single word of apology on the AA.com Web site from anyone.

Did I miss Delta chief executive Gerry Grinstein's apology for all of the delays that Delta passengers endured in New York last week? Did I miss United chief executive Glenn Tilton's apology for the December incident when United dumped 110 Denver-bound passengers in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and then had the planes fly away empty?

Nobody asked me, but…

After a year of fits and starts and bizarre marketing that once considered charging travelers a membership fee to join a club, Eurofly has dumped its New York-Milan all-business-class nonstops. Which proves that even good ideas and needed flights must be marketed logically or they'll die.

This just in from Judge Seidlin today: "This is life. We all come with broken suitcases." Now we know why he's crazy. Some airline messed up his Samsonite.

Copyright © 1993-2007 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.