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NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT...
By Joe Brancatelli
June 7, 2007 -- Nobody asked me, but…

It's absurd to declare a "victory" against terrorism because four loons with no money and no clue were "caught" before they try to blow up the fuel farms at New York's Kennedy Airport. The "terrorists" would have failed even if they had the chance because their cockamamie plan was physically unworkable.

Of course, if you had told me in September, 2001, that some wackos planned to simultaneously hijack planes, steer them into the World Trade Center and collapse the Twin Towers, I would have said their cockamamie plan was physically unworkable.

Nobody asked me, but…

I have no interest in flying Skybus, the pay-as-you-go airline that has a surcharge for everything. But give it credit: A recently announced expansion includes Airbus A320 flights to two airports with no existing commercial service. Flying to St. Augustine, Florida, and Chicopee, Massachusetts, won't change our lives. But at least Skybus is smart enough to realize people will fly to alternate airports if given the opportunity.

On the other hand, I'm a kid from Catholic school and Skybus' initial Web site sounded like the nuns when it insisted that travelers couldn't bring food "unless you bring enough for the whole flight." I have half a mind to buy a couple of hundred KitKat bars, book a flight and then gleefully answer, "Yes, I did!," if Skybus' nuns challenge me with that line.

Nobody asked me, but…

Speaking of religion and air travel, the Associated Press is reporting that the Brazilian government fined Alitalia for carrying Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican secretary of state to Brazil last month even though they forgot their passports. The mind just boggles.

And I do find it interesting that the AP further reports the Papal Nuncio protested the fine with Brazil's Foreign Ministry. I guess the Nuncio never read Matthew 22:21. You know, that's where that Jesus guy suggests that we "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's."

Nobody asked me, but…

I am hearing from a lot of good Hilton HHonors members who tell me that they are now booking away from Hampton Inns because that chain's nightly rates are insanely high compared to full-service Hilton properties, Doubletrees or even Hilton Garden Inns in the same market.

Once more. Seriously. Who are those people in the Mandarin Oriental ads? And why do I care if they are fans?

Nobody asked me, but…

Now I feel foolish for putting dimmers on all of the light switches in my home and the JoeSentMe.com offices. Why regret an energy- and environment-saving move? Because this year's fad, those compact fluorescent lamps, won't work with dimmer switches. Good work, guys.

By the way, just how environmentally friendly are these compact fluorescent lamps? The things are full of mercury. How much poison do we dump into the ground when we dispose of them?

Nobody asked me, but…

Speaking of environmental awareness and travel, I am not ignoring those of you who have complained that my advice to pick up lots of bottles of water past the security-screening checkpoints is less than earth-friendly. So maybe you can tell me if reusable empty water bottles are permitted through security. Because I sure as hell can't get an answer from the Transportation Security Administration.

Am I the only one who has noticed that airports are becoming glorified, brand-name booze halls? Heineken has opened a café in Hong Kong International. Bombay Sapphire has opened what can only be called a gin joint at Kennedy Airport. There are branded brewpubs in Newark, Denver and a half-dozen other airports I've visited lately. There's a chain of wine bars and wine stores opening in airports around the country. It's enough to drive me to buy even more bottles of water…

Nobody asked me, but…

I find it fascinating that Delta Air Lines hasn't announced in the United States that it will switch its Edinburgh flights from Atlanta to New York/Kennedy. Do you think Delta's silence on this side of the pond has anything to do with Continental president Jeff Smisek's public prediction when the Atlanta service was announced? He said that the flights would be "gone within 18 months." Delta drops the Atlanta route at the end of October, 17 months after it was launched.

Don't hold your breath waiting for Virgin Atlantic to launch the all-business-class flights that Richard Branson sort of announced to fawning media attention this week. I'm still waiting for Virgin's business-class double beds and Branson leaked that gem--complete with a computer-generated image--to the ever-credulous New York Times more than seven years ago.

Nobody asked me, but…

Allow me to give a shout out to Amazon.co.uk, the British sister of the U.S. Amazon.com. I recently wanted some DVDs that were only available in the U.K. and it delivered from across the pond just four days after I placed the order. And that was with the standard shipping option, which was about US$9.

Meanwhile, a belated "boo" for all those video companies who encrypt DVDs with regional coding that restricts your ability to use the disks anywhere in the world. No one is more hawkish on creator rights and intellectual property than I, but there's no moral justification at all for making DVDs region-specific. If you view DVDs on a laptop, download a free copy of DVD43, a region-code decrypter. Or you can buy a more elaborate decrypter called AnyDVD.

Nobody asked me, but…

After more than a decade of squabbles over everything from onboard crockery to braking efficiency, high-speed train service between Paris and Frankfurt begins on Sunday. The trip will take about 3.5 hours compared to the current ride of 6 hours and 15 minutes. About an hour of the time savings is due to the fact that the train will no longer have to change locomotives at the French-German border.

It's no Franco-German bullet train, but it's worth noting that Amtrak will test luxury cars on some of its runs. The cars will be provided and staffed by GrandLuxe Rail Journeys, the company that used to be called American Orient Express. After a summer of miserable airline service, I'm sure I'll be ready for some pampering on a nice, slow rail ride.

Nobody asked me, but…

A lot of travelers I know are playing around with Yapta and TripSync. They both seem a little too obsessive for me, but, hey, Chacun à son goût.

I hate a lot of the java/flash baloney I see on Web sites, but I think British Airways' New Club Rules does a decent job using Web technology to explain its new business-class seating. Of course, when you charge around five grand a pop for a business-class ride that may only last six hours, I guess you can afford a planeload of Web programmers working their magic.
ABOUT JOE BRANCATELLI Joe Brancatelli is a publication consultant, which means that he helps media companies start, fix and reposition newspapers, magazines and Web sites. He's also the former executive editor of Frequent Flyer and has been a consultant to or columnist for more business-travel and leisure-travel publishing operations than he can remember. He started his career as a business journalist and created JoeSentMe in the dark days after 9/11 while he was stranded in a hotel room in San Francisco. He lives on the Hudson River in the tourist town of Cold Spring.

THE FINE PRINT All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.

This column is Copyright © 2007 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2007 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.