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

If the government let Lehman Brothers fail without intervention, isn't it okay to let any or all of the Big Six fall?

If Merrill Lynch had to sell itself at distressed prices to Bank of America, doesn't that mean the government should allow the Big Six to merge?

Nobody asked me, but…

If the Federal Reserve bailed out AIG, can't the Big Six argue that they deserve bridge loans and financial help, too?

If AIG was too big to fail and we had to bail it out with taxpayer funds, shouldn't the government oppose the Delta-Northwest merger so that it doesn't become too big to fail?

Nobody asked me, but…

Oil closed at $97 a barrel yesterday, a drop of $50 from its record high earlier this year. That has the so-called experts yapping that the airlines should rescind the fees and surcharges they've imposed. Uh, guys, I understand you don't do your homework, but oil at $97 a barrel only rolls back the clock to December, when the ill-prepared airlines were just beginning to panic. So it's ludicrous to think they'll back off fees and surcharges now.

Another note to the "experts" who claim that travel prices will continue to skyrocket. Can't any of you read the numbers? United Airlines, the most aggressive fare hawk, said its revenue per available seat mile (RASM) will rise just 4.5-5.5 percent in the third quarter. What that means is that fares are rising fast, but prices paid by travelers are not. United's RASM gains are the mirror image of the nation's consumer price index, which was 5.1 percent in August. As I've been trying to explain for months, you can't raise the prices of people who aren't flying.

Nobody asked me, but…

If you want to know why business travelers consider Continental Airlines their go-to carrier, a position occupied for generations by American Airlines, try this. Yesterday, just two days after Continental and Continental Express reopened the battered Houston hub, they reported only three cancellations across the system. American Airlines and American Eagle had 45 cancellations yesterday.

Besides all of the other terrible damage and death caused by Hurricane Ike, the storm wiped out two business-travel icons: The Balinese Room, the famed nightspot in Galveston, and Brennan's Restaurant in Houston. The Balinese, the topic of a ZZ Top song, reopened in 2001 after a 20-year hiatus. It was destroyed last Saturday by the storm surge. Brennan's burned in a fire that started just as Ike hit.

Nobody asked me, but…

I don't read travel books, but even I've read The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux. Thirty years later, he's published the sequel, Ghost Train to the Eastern Star. It's great. Who else can write about 28,000 miles of travel and make it riveting? You can buy both on Amazon.com for about the price you'd pay to check a second bag. They'll make for a great read while you're kicking back in business class on your next long-haul international flight.

A JoeSentMe member didn't like that the Starwood Web site averaged the daily rate of his 14-day stay in Beijing. So he cancelled his single reservation and made 14 separate ones. He saved $1,000 on the two-week stay. A little excessive perhaps, but a good reminder that you need to check the online rate games that hotel chains play at their Web sites.

Nobody asked me, but…

I guess we've seen the end of Carly Fiorina. It's one thing to call the opposition candidates unqualified to run a company like Hewlett-Packard. It's another thing altogether to call your own candidates unqualified. Of course, you could ask the obvious question: How would Carly Fiorina know who's qualified to run Hewlett-Packard? She almost destroyed the company before she got fired as chief executive officer.

I'm typing this column on an eMachine. It was the first non-HP desktop machine I'd purchased in almost a decade.

Nobody asked me, but…

As airlines pressure credit card issuers to pony up extra cash to bail them out, credit card firms are ramping up bonus-mileage offers to convince you to take a card. But if you take one of these cards, make sure you keep track of what you've been promised. Last month I took a card that promised no annual fee and a 20,000-mile welcome and first-use bonus. When I got my first bill, there was a $40 charge for an annual fee and just 10,000 miles. I called the customer-service agent and she had no knowledge of the offer. I had to fax her a copy of the promotion.

Despite two editorials in Inside Flyer and numerous posts on Flyertalk.com, Randy Petersen has only convinced about 2,500 travelers to sign up at his Save Dividend Miles Web site. It's not just that most frequent business travelers have given up on US Airways, it's that they realize that Petersen's myopic, self-serving focus on earnings is stupid. Who needs more bonus miles if you can't use those miles to claim the awards that the airline promised?

Nobody asked me, but…

Have you noticed that all the free online storage sites are disappearing? Streamload, which became MediaMax, which became The LinkUp, is gone. America Online is going to shut Xdrive. Guess you can't make money giving stuff away…

Have you noticed the bulk of the spam you get has suddenly become financial come-ons? Ever since Monday, the sexual healing stuff has been replaced with phony rate-reduction and debt-elimination scams. Them spammers ain't stupid.

Nobody asked me, but…

I've been begging you for years, but would you please stop flying Alitalia now? Between the strikes, the politics, the losses and the bad service, I can't handle the soap opera of trying to figure out what day the thing will definitively tank.

Speaking of black holes, the Greek government announced this week that it would close, reorganize and reconstitute Olympic again. I will not make the obvious, it's-all-greek-to-me joke, but I really don't know what the airline is officially called anymore or who runs it now.

Nobody asked me, but…

Among other things, the Depression-era Glass-Stegall Act made it illegal for investment banks to own commercial banks. John McCain's chief financial advisor, former Senator Phil Gramm, wrote the 1999 bill repealing that useful, sensible and long-standing prohibition. McCain and Joe Biden voted for the bill. President Clinton signed the bill. I'd say there's enough crow for both sides to eat.

I swear I wrote this before Stephen Colbert said it: Didn't AIG have bankruptcy insurance?
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.