THE BRANCATELLI FILE FOR 2010

WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT JOE
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 began his career as a business journalist and created JoeSentMe.com 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 Cold Spring, New York.

December 24: THE BOXING DAY BLIZZARD IN THE EAST
When weather geeks began predicting a Boxing Day blizzard for the airports along the East Coast, we knew that it would probably be bad. But we never expected all three major New York airports to shut down for several days in a row--and need days more to recover. Coming on the heels of the holiday problems in Europe, it made for an awful travel period.

December 18: THE EUROPE DEEP-FREEZE UPDATE
Snow, wind, ice and sub-freezing temperatures have enveloped Europe in recent days. Europe, and especially its airports and airlines, have not reacted well. There were long delays, heavy cancellations, stranded passengers--and, of course, there was helpless, hapless, hopeless Heathrow Airport.

December 9: WHAT I WISH FOR YOU THIS CHRISTMAS
Fifty weeks a year I am deliriously content to chronicle the realities of our lives on the road. It is my job, my passion, my duty and, I freely admit, a comforting crease in the fabric of my own life on the road. But this is one of the last columns of the year and, just this once, I want to write about what I wish business travel was about. So here's my wish list for business travel and for your holidays.

November 18: MEANWHILE, IN OTHER NEWS ...
Most of what you're reading about the TSA and the full-body screeners is wrong, exaggerated or a polemic from one side or the other. But more about that next week. Here's the news you might have missed while the media was whipping itself into a frenzy over body scanners: a change in airline ranks; the conviction of a terrorist; new travel websites; Susan Boyle and The Beatles; and much, much more.

November 11: BUSINESS-CLASS SHORT ATTENTION THEATER
We're getting close to the holidays so I know you're already thinking about checking out for the year. So we'll do this fast: Some thoughts about how to claim and use those gigantic mileage bonuses for taking a credit card. Can Clear and registered-traveler plans come back from the dead? And some thoughts about a phony-baloney passenger advocate's Web site.

November 4: THE CONFLUENCE OF SECURITY AND POLITICS
What are the odds? Mail-bomb parcels are found on planes just as Secure Flight begins even as the TSA imposes rough-you-up patdowns if you "opt out" of their intrusive full-body scanners. And all this happens just as America goes to the polls for the mid-year elections. What we got here, fellow flyers, is the confluence of security and politics. I think I've figured it out, but you may not like the answer.

October 21: NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT ...
Some thoughts about terrorism (real and imagined); travel industry credit cards (real and fanciful); the quality of airline food (in myth and reality); a new airline "alliance of the miserables" (really, an airline called it that); and much more. All the notable news from the road this week, complete with all of the appropriate amounts of snark.

October 14: SOME 'WISDOM' FROM HOTEL NOTEPADS
Some thoughts about one of America's great cultural contributions (good, cheap hotels); musings about what we were thinking about in the good, old days of August, 2001; the lunacy of claiming fares are cheaper now than the "old days" of bundled pricing; and the skinny on European car delivery services now. And all of these items started as notes I scribbled on hotel notepads.

October 7: ONLY THE LONELY
Life on the road is lonely. At least for us. Airlines and hotels? Not so much. They've been merging, doing joint ventures and getting antitrust immunity so fast lately that they can't possibly be lonely. Just this week, three airlines (American, British Airways and Iberia) got it on. Two or three more (United, Continental and Air Canada) did something no one can figure out. And Marriott did a big deal with a big Spanish hotel chain. Here are the details that matter to you.

September 30: NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT...
It's the first day of the last quarter of the year. Isn't there a superstition about that? No? Well, in that case, here's the news of the week in business travel, complete with snark thrown in for free. And pictures! There are pictures of absolutely no value, but some interest.

September 23: THINGS THAT GO DING IN THE E-MAIL
I never worry about things that go bump in the night. It's usually me running into the furniture on the way to the bathroom in some darkened and unfamiliar hotel room. But I'm beginning to wonder about the things that go ding in the E-mail. Know that scary E-mail about Secure Flight that your airline sent? Or the "Clear's back!" E-mail? What about that Global Entry thing? Or all of those credit card E-mails from your airline or hotel? I explain what they all mean--in English.

September 16: WINNING THE WAR WITH OURSELVES
Your responses to last week's column about the state of things nine years after 9/11 were so erudite and so honorable that I thought you'd like to read a little bit of what your fellow business travelers are thinking. It reminds me how honored I am to work with and for you.

September 9: LOSING THE WAR WITH OURSELVES
Nine years after 9/11, there are preachers urging us to burn the Koran and know-nothings protesting a Ground Zero mosque that is neither at Ground Zero nor a mosque. Ground Zero itself is still a hole in the ground and the TSA is making shockingly explicit photos of us before we can board a flight. We've given in to the worst demons of our national nature. And we have lost the war with ourselves.

September 2: LET'S NOT MAKE THIS COLUMN LABORIOUS
It's getaway day, so let's talk fast about Hyatt's long-anticipated new credit card and why the best feature is what it doesn't do; the deal between merger-mad United and Continental that will allow Southwest Airlines into Newark; and the record fine levied on American Airlines for maintenance snafus that inconvenienced hundreds of thousands of us.

August 12: WHEN NEWS BREAKS, I THINK PIZZA
I helped my frequent-flying brother-in-law get home from California yesterday and he was smart enough to pay for his own flights to avoid a stupid itinerary booked by his company. That means he'll be sane and rested when he mans his pizza oven at the family party tomorrow. I wish the rest of this column made as much sense, but we are talking about flight attendants who don't attend; bad things happening at once-favored airports; the flights that the Sky Gods don't cancel; and more craziness.

July 29: NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT...
It's been a big week in business travel: changes at the top of soon-to-be-merged United; bad blood between Porter and Air Canada; cool deals at Hyatt and Starwood and more. Plus thoughts about immigration and hotels, economic downturns and airline livery and more. I throw in the snark for free. And, remember, it could be worse: It hit 100 degrees in Moscow today for the first time in history.

July 22: LIFE ON THE ROAD, FROM THE ROAD
I'm off on a 400-mile one-way car trip because I just can't handle another airport and another flight. But we can't leave the frequent flyer issues behind. So let's talk about which airlines lose the most checked luggage; the flight attendant who went on a crime spree in business class; the good news about tarmac delays; and a phony new report on "ancillary" revenue at the airlines.

July 15: AFTER THE CLOSURE ON LOCKERBIE
I wrote "A Funny Kind of Closure" in 2001, when Pan Am 103 bombing "mastermind" Abdel Baset al-Megrahi was convicted. No one cared about him or Lockerbie then. So why are we shocked that al-Megrahi was traded back to Libya for oil and the greater glory of BP? And why is everyone so surprised when the quid pro quo was announced even at the time of the trade?

June 24: UP FRONT BARGAINS ARE HARDER TO FIND
The gravy train may be over. For the first time in years, there really do seem to be fewer international business-class deals around. Those that remain are higher in price and with more onerous purchase restrictions. Here's what you need to know about how and why you'll have to search harder to fly in style without breaking the bank.

June 17: NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT...
How much don't you want to talk about business travel this week? Yeah, me, too. Which is why we'll talk about cabbages and kings more than airlines and hotels. So all this week's travel news, plus free snark, as well as thoughts about music, meatballs and more.

June 10: THE SPIRIT STRIKE WATCH
So Spirit Airlines takes a pilot strike, but doesn't give its passengers any advance notice or the chance to change or cancel their flights. And when Spirit cancels its schedule, it doesn't even give travelers a refund. They give "flight credits" and force you to call an unreachable call center to get the refund.

June 3: TRAVEL NEWS FROM A TO Z
Leave it to the travel industry to allow me to write about things from A to Z and not find a moment of sanity, a shred of logic or a bit of intelligence. What do you make of United and Continental merging, but not really merging; the Midwest Airlines name disappearing because if reminds people of when travel was better; in-flight Zunes; and al Qaeda's favorite airline?

May 27: THE BRITISH AIRWAYS STRIKE WATCH IV
As the British Airways flight attendants strike drags on, it turns out that BA is unable to communicate completely accurate information to travelers, that it may have sacrificed 1.4 billion pounds of revenue to save 62 million pounds and that the carrier's combative chief executive may be a disposable man in the apparently never-ending battle between an airline and its labor force.

May 13: THE BRITISH AIRWAYS STRIKE WATCH III
For the third time this year, British Airways flight attendants are planning to strike against a package of unilaterally imposed concessions. BA contends it'll be able to fly 70 percent of its passengers through the strike, which begins Tuesday and lasts for five days. Then come three more five-day strikes. We'll have continuing details.

May 6: THE MERGER, AS WE SEE IT
What's in the United-Continental merger for you? Absolutely nothing. But while the Skygods play their games we've got to look at practicalities: How will the merger affect our frequent flyer miles? What will change with the airlines' vastly divergent in-flight services? How will American Airlines, now suddenly a distant third-place carrier, react? All of the details and some informed speculation.

April 29: NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT...
When you're on the road all week, you hear lots of strange things in the airport clubs. Plus random thoughts on airline mergers; hard-drinking morning flyers; jazz on television; Bangor, Maine; "bucket list" hotels; the Simpsons on in-flight entertainment systems; and lots of other topics. I throw in the snark at no extra charge.

April 22: ASHES TO ASHES IN EUROPE
A big volcano in Iceland erupts and most of Europe's airports are closed--and closed for days. And does it make you feel better that John Cleese took a $5,000 cab ride to get where he was going? All of the Pythonese details and information about how to get compensation, too.

April 8: WON'T GET FOOLED AGAIN
The fools at United Airlines and US Airways are talking merger. Again. The Killer Bs at Spirit Airlines have a lunatic-fringe idea guaranteed to further debase and disrupt the travel experience. Again. A guy smoking in the lav makes a shoe-bomb joke, fighters are scrambled and the right-wing bloggers go batty. Again. Meet the new news. Same as the old news.

March 25: THE BRITISH AIRWAYS STRIKE WATCH II
Okay, let's get ready to do it again. BA survived (after a fashion) a three-day flight attendants strike. Now we have another weekend of disruption coming. I've got the latest details plus all of the attendant politics and name calling.

March 18: THE BRITISH AIRWAYS STRIKE WATCH
Unilateral concessions imposed on British Airways' flight attendants have brought the carrier to and past the brink of a strike this weekend that may cost it twice as much in losses as it hopes to save from the cuts. Yup, it's just another bit of airline craziness. We've got the details.

February 25: NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT...
You love the format, I love writing it and we can get though a lot of news--and some snark--with a laugh. So this week, a quick-hit tour through the mindset about airline mergers, the state of hotel check-in, good and bad news about life on the road, and thoughts about Albert Einstein, Tallulah Bankhead, great music for the road, Iran and much more.

February 4: NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT...
We've reached the dog days of February, which has me wondering why some airlines call its workers "customer-facing" instead of customer service personnel; why I'm having nightmares in French and German; why airport travel patterns are getting odd; why Southwest's traffic continues to grow if passengers have accepted baggage fees; and much more.

January 28: WE HAVE ALL BEEN HERE BEFORE
I woke up this mornin' to see what condition our condition was in and, to change songs, I realized that we have all been here before. As I look at this week's top stories, I've realized I've covered them all before and nothing has changed. See why airline earnings, Delta's supposed in-flight upgrades, the iPad, the bankruptcy of an off-airport parking firm and even JetBlue's potentially problematic reservation changes this weekend are more of the same old same old.

January 21: STUPID SECURITY TRICKS
I was going to write about fares this week. Or credit cards. Or any of a dozen things that you've been asking me about in the last few weeks. But here we are talking about airline and airport security once again. Why? Because this insanity is chewing up a lot of our time on the road.

January 14: WHEN THINGS WERE LESS ROTTEN
I can't pinpoint when life on the road turned rotten, but the events of the last few weeks have certainly confirmed that belief. So I turned to something I wrote back in 1986, about a wonderful flight of fancy that speculated what our lives on the road would be in 2019. Yes, there are middle seats in deep space, but there was still a sense of wonder back then.

January 7: GRAND GUIGNOL, SECURITY DIVISION
You heard some loon with explosives in his underwear set his privates on fire and you knew it was going to be Grand Guignol all the way. And so it has been. "Great Balls of Fire," as the New York Post offered in a Page One headline. And it gets weirder, with hilariously unconnected dots, missing TSA agents and cameras and a Slovakian "security test" that defies human comprehension.

January 3: THE TSA GOES INTO CYA MODE
Today's announcement from the Transportation Security Administration that it is implementing new security measures for international flights headed to the United States means the agency has gone into full CYA mode. The announcement is mindless, full of gobbledygook and virtually useless for travelers trying to figure out how to reasonably prepare for a flight to the United States.

These columns originally appeared at JoeSentMe.com.

Copyright 1993-2010 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.