GROSSE POINT BRANCATELLI
By Joe Brancatelli
November 1, 2007 -- There are moments when life on the road makes me feel like Martin Q. Blank, the burned-out hit man road warrior from the undeservedly little-known Grosse Point Blank. To his everlasting credit, John Cusack's character knew when he'd hit bottom. And so do I.
I take a look at the news of the week and I shake my head. It's just crazy out there and I'm metaphysical toast. So I'm off to raid what's left of the candy in the trick-or-treat bowl. Read on at your own risk.
NO SEX, PLEASE, WE'RE SINGAPOREANS
The secretive folks who run Singapore Airlines last month gleefully announced the configuration for its Airbus A380s and couldn't wait to tell the world about its first-class Singapore Suites. The big-deal reveal was that the center-of-the-cabin suites could be combined and the chairs converted into a double bed. The airline got what it wanted, of course: Worldwide publicity far beyond the handful of people who will ever book a pair of center-suite accommodations. But as the huge aircraft went into commercial service this week, Singapore Air was suddenly at pains to lecture its potential customers: No sex in the double beds. "If couples used our double beds to engage in inappropriate activity, we would politely ask them to desist," said one of the stiff-necked airline's spokesmen. "There are things that are acceptable on an aircraft and things that aren't, and the rules for behavior in our double beds are the same ones that apply throughout the aircraft."
GOOD THING THESE TWO WEREN'T FLYING SINGAPORE AIR
One of the weirdest in-flight amenities in the skies these days is the ladies-only lavatories aboard Silverjet, the all-business-class carrier that flies between New York and London. To promote the concept, Silverjet has created a saucy viral video commercial that it has posted at You Tube and elsewhere. I won't spoil a good joke, but let's just say that the kind of behavior Silverjet uses in the Web-only commercial is considered "inappropriate activity" on Singapore Airlines.
CASH IN THE LOBBY
The British are enamored of a TV show called Cash in the Attic. If you've never seen it on the BBC or BBC America, here's the show in a nutshell: Charmingly eccentric Brits need quick cash to do something like buy their grandson an amplifier or landscape their lawn so they rummage around their homes looking for knick-knacks and tchotchkes that can be sold at auction. The idea is obviously the inspiration for The Savoy, the oh-so-proper London hotel that will soon close for a long-overdue renovation. The hotel managers have called in Bonham's, the British auction house. And, as you can see by its online catalog, you'll soon be able to bid on battered rosewood occasional tables, slightly faded upholstered chairs, gilt-and-glass chandeliers, prints of questionable provenance, mahogany lecterns and parrot table-lamp bases. The three-day auction will take place December 18-20 and portions of the proceeds will go to Farms for City Children.
TRASH AT THE SECURITY CHECKPOINT
We have nothing quite like The Savoy here in America, so our auction-y things aren't quite up to snuff. But still, it's noteworthy: the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has apparently dumped on state agencies millions of bits of the detritus it has confiscated from us at airport security checkpoints. According to a story in the November issue of Budget Travel magazine, eight states are now peddling our own stuff back to us. Want a 25-pound lot of Swiss Army Knives? Talk to Illinois. Some fuzzy handcuffs that can't be taken through security or used in the double beds of those Singapore Suites? Check in with the state hucksters in Pennsylvania. You can also buy machetes that were confiscated from travelers passing through the airports in Portland and Eugene.
AND HE WASN'T EVEN CARRYING A MACHETE…
The first Muslim minister to serve in the British government was detained by the TSA on Sunday (October 28) at Washington/Dulles Airport. British International Development Minister Shahid Malik, who was elected to Parliament in 2005, was searched for explosives for about 40 minutes. Why was Malik in Washington? He'd been meeting with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the parent agency of the TSA. The topic of the meeting? Terrorism.
TILTON WAS RIGHT ABOUT THE BISCUITS
Back in an August column, I made fun of United Airlines for cutting in half the size of its in-flight biscuits. I suggested that United needed to save the money on the 26.9-cent item and scrimp on its in-flight service in order to afford the $39 million annual compensation of chief executive Glenn Tilton. That was a crude and unfair remark and I apologize. We now know why United cut the size of its in-flight biscuit: The cookie cutting created the airline's $498 million third-quarter profit. To his credit, Tilton knew what I didn't: If it hadn't cut the size of the biscuits, United's quarterly earnings might have slumped to, oh, say, $497,998,000.
YES, I WILL HAVE ENOUGH FOR EVERYONE
Back in June, I noted that Skybus has a nasty (not to mention unenforceable) carry-on food policy. Here's what I said then: 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. Well, guess what? Just today, Skybus announced it'll start flying in January from Columbus, Ohio, to Stewart/Newburgh, my hometown airport. I'll be taking one of the early flights with a carry-on bag full of KitKat bars. Anyone want to join me? C'mon, you know you want to. I'll bring my DVD copy of Grosse Point Blank and we can watch it on my laptop during the flight.
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.