E-MAIL JOE    PRINT    2008 COLUMNS    ARCHIVES    SEARCH ARCHIVES
NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT...
By Joe Brancatelli
April 18, 2008 -- Nobody asked me, but…

People sometimes ask me why I am so critical--okay, nasty--when it comes to the boobs who run the Big Six. Today's explanation: Southwest Airlines, profitable for 37 consecutive years, said this week that its fuel needs for the rest of the year are 70 percent hedged at $51 a barrel. Continental Airlines, putatively the best-managed of the Big Six, said this week that it is just 18 percent hedged in the second quarter and 5 percent hedged in the third quarter.

People sometimes ask me why we generally hate airlines. Today's explanation: Earlier this week, the AerLingus.com Web site allowed travelers in Ireland to book flights to the United States for just 5 euros. Aer Lingus apparatchiks then unilaterally cancelled the reservations and claimed that the price was a mistake. When pressed by the Irish media, Aer Lingus first lied about the number of seats booked. (It claimed 100, then admitted to 300.) Then it blamed the buyers for booking a fare they were offered. Aer Lingus apologized today and reinstated the travelers' bookings, but only after Irish regulators got involved and some of the flyers hired lawyers.

Nobody asked me, but…

The entire airline alliance game is like a bad rerun of World War I. You either line up with the Germans (Lufthansa runs the Star Alliance) or the French (Air France fronts the SkyTeam Alliance). Then you wait for the dithering British and Americans (British Airways and American Airlines fight over control of the OneWorld Alliance) to weigh in.

The classic definition of insanity certainly applies to the airlines and their endless fare increases for business travelers and fare sales for leisure flyers. Year after year, decade after decade, crisis after crisis, quarterly loss after quarterly loss, they keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Memo to the Big Six Stooges: It's the fare structure, stupid. If you keep raising our fares, we stop flying, then you have to sell your seats below cost to leisure flyers, who've been trained to wait you out.

Nobody asked me, but…

Steven Wright once traveled to Las Vegas and "got into a long argument with the man at the roulette wheel over what I considered to be an odd number." Kinda how I feel about US Airways' decision to charge extra for "choice" coach seats.

United Airlines removed an Orthodox Jew from a New York-San Francisco flight this week because he was praying before departure and didn't sit down fast enough to suit the flight attendants. Now I know why the Pope flies Alitalia. It's a crappy airline, too, but at least the flight attendants let you pray whenever you want.

Nobody asked me, but…

Here's how Barack Obama can deal with the flag lapel pin "controversy." The next time some nutter asks why he doesn't wear one, pull a big, bright, shiny pin out of his jacket pocket and put it in his lapel. Then ask: "Now that I'm wearing my flag lapel pin, have your health-care premiums gone down? Did the economy improve? Did we save the life of one soldier in Iraq? Did the price of gas go down?"

Speaking of nutters, some accuse John McCain of being the Manchurian Candidate. Gee, I sure hope it was the Frank Sinatra-Angela Lansbury-Lawrence Harvey version, because that Denzel Washington remake was awful.

Nobody asked me, but…

Today's definition of frequent flyer miles: The Zimbabwe Dollars of loyalty programs.

Isn't it too bad that a genuinely nice fellow like Randy Peterson has gone over to the dark side? These days, there isn't a frequent flyer program devaluation he can't justify or a sleazy airline rule change he won't rationalize.

Nobody asked me, but…

In-flight air is dreadful because the carriers save a few bucks by recirculating it rather than pumping in 100 percent fresh air. And now three of them--Alaska, Continental and Northwest--ban those little personal air purifiers you hang around your neck. You just can't make this stuff up.

I don't know about you, but I can live without hotels injecting "scents" into their air. If I wanted smelly air, I would book a bed next to the perfume counter at the local Macy's.

Nobody asked me, but…

What do you think will fall first, Silvio Berlusconi's new Italian government or his new hair?

I'm not one for constitutional amendments, but I'll get behind any politician who wants to make it unconstitutional for anyone named Bush or Clinton to ever be president again. And that includes George Clinton from Parliament Funkadelic and Duke, the dog from the Bush's Beans commercials.

Nobody asked me, but…

That new book about the Titanic says the liner was doomed by low-grade rivets. The scientists claim that the Titantic would have fared better if it had the same kind of steel rivets used in the construction of the Lusitania. I know scientists lead sheltered lives, but someone really ought to tell those guys…

Speaking of historic British disasters, British Airways has finally figured out how to solve its problems with Terminal 5 at London's Heathrow Airport. Beginning on October 27, it will launch flights between New York/Kennedy and London's Gatwick Airport.

Nobody asked me, but…

The new Delta-Northwest site to pimp their proposed merger, New Global Airline, has a tab labeled "How You Can Help." As a reader E-mailed me this week, "I'm happy to help. All they have to do is write me a letter describing the nature of the problem and I'll respond with a useless, off-target form response in four to six weeks."

I'll keep saying it until some publisher listens: It's criminal that there are no books in print by Jimmy Cannon, the brilliant sportswriter who created the "Nobody Asked Me, But…" format.
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 © 2008 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2008 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.