THE BRANCATELLI FILE FOR 2012

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 27: THE GHOST OF AIRLINE CHAOS STILL TO COME
US Airways is the Frankenstein of airlines: an unholy mashup of mergers and the discarded parts of a dozen other carriers. Over all of the years, whether it was called Allegheny or US Air or USAirways, the mantra has been: We have to get bigger to compete or die. But since so many of the combinations have been abject failures, why should we assume that a possible US Airways merger with American Airlines will represent anything but the ghost of airline chaos still to come?

November 8: POLITICS, LIKE AIRLINES, ARE FOUL
Over the years, I've explained how airlines are like department stores. I have compared their pricing unfavorably to the cost of Diet Coke. I have ridiculed code-shares as the equivalent of Froot Loops in a box of Cheerios. And as I watched Barack Obama win re-election, I realized that our dysfunctional major airlines are disconcertingly similar to the far right of our political spectrum. They both inhabit echo chambers of self-righteousness and manifestly refuse to accept facts when they don't fit their respective narratives.

October 25: FRANKENSTORM
What happens when a hurricane meets a Nor'easter and gets sucked across the Northeast and MidAtlantic by the jet stream? Tens of thousands of cancellations, no flights for days and a trail of destruction and confusion. Here's how we covered it.

September 27: NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT ...
This column marks the 11th anniversary of JoeSentMe, a site I designed to last a month. So lots of talk and snark about age, fatigue, old rock and rollers and bad business-travel "journalism." Also, plain talk about elections, Delta and Frontier's frequent flyer program games and more.

September 13: WHY WE DON'T GET FASTER FREE NIGHTS ANYMORE
The greatest promotion in the history of frequent travel plans, Hyatt's Faster Free Nights, was simple, elegant and rich. You completed two stays and you got a free night. But the promotion is gone now and inquiring minds want to know why. Jeff Zidell, who runs Hyatt's Gold Passport program, talks about why the uber-popular promo disappeared and makes a case for why we're better off without it.

September 6: THE CHAOS AT LUFTHANSA
Lufthansa, the German carrier and European anchor of the Star Alliance, has suffered through three strikes in the last eight days. Today alone about two-thirds of its global schedule has been wiped out in a dispute with unhappy flight attendants. But there may be some good news: The airline and the union will talk today and the union says it won't strike again as long as the two sides are talking productively.

August 23: THE TRAVEL STORMS OF AUGUST
Hurricane Isaac played havoc with the Gulf Coast. United Airlines' wonky computers melted down. Lufthansa was hit hard by a strike at its Frankfurt hub--and U.S.-Germany flights were affected. We have all of the details and all of the reporting.

August 2: DEATH TAKES A BUSINESS TRIP
Death Took a business trip this week and it once again reminded me of the basic truth of American commercial air travel: The legacy airlines' dysfunctional pricing system is the root cause of their long-standing financial woes and their increasingly desperate attempts to merge. It explains why so many business flyers try to fly less and why discretionary travelers often search for holidays that eschew flying altogether.

July 5: HOW DO I GET INTO THE SMART-GUY CLUB?
As I have often said, the one place in the world where I feel smarter than the average bear is an airport club. So you can imagine my delight when I heard that Chase Bank and Visa are planning a pop-up club in the heart of London during the Olympics. The so-called VIP lounge, open to any Chase Visa cardholder, sounds terrific. And I'd be thrilled if Chase and Visa thought about in-town lounges for business travelers on a permanent basis.

June 14: ONE MORE TIME: SIT DOWN. SHUT UP. AND BUCKLE UP.
A United Airlines jet this week hit an unexpected patch of turbulence. At least a dozen passengers and crew were hurt and at least a half-dozen were injured seriously enough to require hospitalization. So once again I ask what I've asked many times before: Do you have a death wish? What other reason could you have for not buckling your seatbelt on a flight traveling hundreds of miles an hour?

May 24: THE REVENGE OF THE 'OVER-ENTITLED'
The CFO of United Airlines claims that frequent flyers are "over-entitled." Yet United's CEO tripled his compensation last year as United fell to the bottom of the DOT operational ratings and lost almost as much money as its legacy competitors combined. But we're the over-entitled ones? Trust me on this: When the dysfunctional crew running United is finally gone, we'll call it The Revenge of the Over-Entitled.

May 9: NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT ...
Did you know about Einstein's Theory of Idiotic Airlines? How about Queen's Cap of Maintenance Class? Why does Starwood Hotels think we're worker bees? Why are hoteliers shocked to learn that business travelers do business in business hotels? But this column is short because it's my turn to try and form a government in Greece.

April 9: SEEN IN C: THE SUMMER BUSINESS-CLASS SALES TO EUROPE
Summer business-class sale fares aren't quite the eye-popping values they once were, but they are still the best, cheapest way to sit up front on a flight to Europe. Here's what's on tap this summer from Aer Lingus to Virgin Atlantic, complete with prices, restrictions and other salient details.

April 3: A TORNADO OF TROUBLES AT AMERICAN AIRLINES
The brutal series of rain and hailstorms--not to mention about a dozen confirmed tornados--tormented the Dallas Metroplex on Tuesday, April 3. It created havoc around the American Airlines system and caused days of delays and cancelled flights. Along the way, however, we learned that some problems created by the weather are made worse by wrong-thinking airline executives.

March 29: UNITED'S LIVING IN ITS OWN PRIVATE IDAHO
The botched data transition at United Airlines underlines the arrogance of the world's largest carrier. The SkyGods running United are living in their own private Idaho and they think we'll put up with anything because we have no options. But business travelers aren't sheep. We defect in waves from airlines that treat us badly. We won't live in their private Idahos.

March 8: THE AIRLINES VERSUS THE BIBLE
United's lost weekend of delays and this week's continuing glitches remind us that airlines always want the benefit of the doubt from us when they have a problem. But when do they cut us a break when we have a problem? The answer: Never. That's why the Biblical enjoinder to do unto others as you would have them do unto you doesn't work with airlines. For business travelers, the only wise course is to do unto the airlines exactly as they do unto us. Demand they perform or take your business elsewhere.

March 3: UNITED'S MARCH MADNESS
United Airlines switched from Apollo to the SHARES computer system used by United Airlines over the weekend. And it was a disaster. Weekend on-time performance in the legacy United hubs was awful and there were scores of data issues, especially among elite flyers.

February 16: THE 2012 BUSINESS-CLASS BARGAIN OUTLOOK
For the first time in years, there really do seem to be fewer international business-class deals around. And those that remain are higher in price and with more onerous purchase restrictions. But don't panic. You can still find the bargains if you know how the game is played.

February 8: THE CHAOS IN EUROPE'S SKIES
Strikes in Frankfurt and against Iberia Airlines this week have crippled travel around Europe and dinged our ability to use the the Star and Oneworld alliances. We've got the latest details and have collected all of our earlier urgent dispatches in one place.

January 20: BUSINESS LESSONS FROM A DYING TV SHOW
Chuck, a television show you've probably never seen, ends an improbable five-year run this month, and it offers business people a useful lesson: Widespread critical acclaim and massive social-media buzz do not necessarily equal financial success.

These columns originally appeared at JoeSentMe.com.

Copyright 1993-2012 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.