LEFTOVERS IN THE SKY AND THE LOBBY
By Joe Brancatelli
November 29, 2007 -- A word to the wise: If you've still got Thanksgiving leftovers, toss 'em out. The experts say that the turkey and trimmings had a 72-hour life, after which they should have been frozen or thrown away.
Why am I doing Hints from Heloise? Because I spent Thanksgiving Day weekend posting a cornucopia of Brancatelli File and Tactical Traveler columns from those happy and carefree days before 9/11. Unlike the detritus of your holiday feast, however, I don't consider these columns leftovers. Far from it. To me, they are living, breathing, business-traveling history.
In fact, as I was formatting and posting these several hundred columns to the JoeSentMe archives, I came across a slew of interesting items that are worth revisiting.
I Haven't Seen the McLean or a McDLT Lately, Either
Consider, for example, this fascinating tidbit from December 14, 2000: Following in the corporate footsteps of Howard Johnson and Marriott, fast-food behemoth McDonald's is branching into hotels. The McDonald's franchisee that operates more than 100 restaurants around Switzerland is building the world's first two Golden Arch hotels. Both should open during the first quarter of 2001; one is located near Zurich Airport and the other is under construction in the village of Lully. Prices will start at about $90 a night and McDonald's claims that its target audiences are business travelers during the week and families on weekends.
What became of the Golden Arches? For starters, it never attained chain status. The Zurich Airport and Lully outposts were the only ones ever built. The properties got solid reviews from travelers and won comparative raves from publications such as the The Times of London and the Globe and Mail of Toronto, but the Golden Arch concept never caught on. Both properties were eventually converted to Park Inn hotels and they now exist rather anonymously as part of the Rezidor lodging empire.
Deregulation Still Doesn't Play in Peoria
I came across this charming item from July 20, 1998: Business travelers have been socked hard by deregulation during the last 20 years. Consider what's playing in Peoria, which is what the crack analysts at Morten Beyer & Associates did. In 1978, before deregulation, there were 50 daily jet flights to Peoria from 17 cities. Today, Peoria has nonstop or direct service to only eight cities. A fare comparison is even more chilling. In 1978, the walk-up fare for a roundtrip between Peoria and Washington/National was just $170. Today's walk-up fare: $762, which includes the flights on 19-seaters to and from an airline hub. In case you're having trouble with the math, 1998's fare is about 4.5 times higher than the 1978 fare.
The last ten years haven't been any better for business travel in general and Peoria in particular. Except for sporadic and seasonal service to leisure destinations from Allegiant Air, Peoria is down to about 20 daily commuter flights to seven hub cities. And flying between Peoria and Washington? An unrestricted walk-up ticket today costs $1,419 roundtrip including a plane change at Chicago/O'Hare. If your math is still shaky, 2007's price is 8.3 times higher than the 1978 fare.
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow at Berlin's Airports
Back on May 19, 1999, I thought I was reporting good news: The contract is a thousand pages and it was consummated only after months of grueling negotiations, but Berlin finally has a deal to build a new airport. Called Berlin Brandenburg International, the new facility will be located in Schönefeld, home of the former East Berlin airport. If all goes according to plan, Tempelhof, Berlin's downtown airport, will close in 2002 and Tegel, Berlin's primary airport, will shut down in 2007, the year Brandenburg becomes fully operational.
As you've probably guessed, all didn't go as planned in Berlin. A decade-long lawsuit over the fate of Schönefeld didn't conclude until last year and now Berlin Brandenburg is scheduled to open in 2011. Completely without irony, Brandenburg's Web site calls the facility Germany's "airport of the future." Of course, Tempelhof didn't close as scheduled in 2002--or in 2004, a much-discussed alternate date. In fact, it's still open and probably won't close until next October. Meanwhile, Tegel continues to serve as Berlin's primary airport and certainly won't close until Brandenburg is up and running.
Warsaw Is Still a Good Way to Lower Fares
A few weeks after the Tactical Traveler column launched, the April 13, 1998, edition carried a scrap of fare strategy: If you're getting clobbered by the high cost of business-class fares to Europe, try flying through Warsaw with LOT Polish Airlines. From New York, LOT charges only $2,550 roundtrip in business class to a dozen destinations, including Prague, Rome and Moscow. In exchange for the quick, painless plane change in Warsaw, you will save as much as $2,500 compared to nonstops to those cities. LOT's beyond-Warsaw fares will also save you similar amounts on flights where you currently connect through Frankfurt or Vienna. How is the business class on LOT? There are no at-seat videos on the immaculately maintained Boeing 767s, but the food is fine and the wines excellent, the seats are comfy and the legroom terrific, and the flight crews are omnipresent and extraordinarily solicitous.
A decade later, LOT remains a good business-class bargain. It charges $2,500 roundtrip between New York and Warsaw and $2,660 roundtrip from Chicago. (LOT also flies to Krakow from New York and Chicago.) The flat-price, beyond-Warsaw pricing strategy is gone, but LOT still charges several thousand less than its competitors to major European capitals, especially cities in Eastern Europe. And LOT's business-class service remains competitive, if not on the cutting edge. The seat pitch is 52 or 56 inches at the deeply reclining cradle-style seats.
I have to admit that this item from February 8, 1999, is one of my all-time favorites: Ever wonder why airline food never lives up to the florid descriptions on the in-flight menus? Ever wonder why it often doesn't seem like food at all? Rich Marini, a longtime observer of the business-travel scene, has found the answer. In his cover story on airline food in the February issue of Frequent Flyer magazine, Marini presents a brutally honest assessment by Eric Kopelow, the corporate executive chef of United Airlines. "Airline cuisine is basically leftovers," says Kopelow. "It's cooked by the caterer and then reheated in flight."
What's changed in the last eight years? Frequent Flyer magazine is out of business and Rich Marini works at a newspaper in San Antonio. And in-flight food? Even in the premium classes, it is now what it has always been: leftovers.
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.