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NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT ...
By Joe Brancatelli
July 4, 2013 -- Nobody asked me, but ...

I've followed the debates over the future of hotel room service and the financial state of Gogo, the airline-internet firm. The common thread: Room service and in-flight WiFi are both products business travelers like, but are inherently unprofitable for the providers.

I passed on ordering room service last weekend at the two-month-old Hyatt Union Square in Manhattan. Why? The room was so small that there literally would have been no room for a tray. They tell me Hyatt stepped in as the hotel's brand flag although the property was originally conceived as a Hilton Garden Inn. Can't imagine that because there's no room in the room for a microwave oven, a Hilton Garden Inn brand standard.

Nobody asked me, but ...

Speaking of small rooms, Britain's Premier Inn chain this week launched a new hotel brand called hub. Beware when hotel firms use words like "compact" and phrases like designed to "appeal to customers who value price, location and design over space." What they mean is insanely small rooms. In this case, about 119 square feet.

And now, the classic crowded cabin scene from A Night at the Opera. It's here. See if you can calculate whether there are more people or more Groucho Marx one-liners in this 2-minute, 30-second clip.

Nobody asked me, but...

No matter what you think of Edward Snowden, don't you think he's already suffered enough? After all, he's been hiding out in the transit hotel at Sheremetyevo Airport for two weeks. That's a Japanese-style capsule hotel and he's surely being guarded by KGB types. In other words, plenty of privation and tiny accommodations. He's already in prison and the U.S. taxpayers aren't paying for it.

Speaking of which, Julian Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for 13 months. Think of all the empty pizza boxes and take-out containers piled up in the corner of his room ...

Nobody asked me, but...

The Pittsburgh Pirates have the best record in baseball. If they make the playoffs, how many times are we gonna see Sid Bream's slide into home in the 1992 playoffs?

On the other hand, maybe the Pirates will revive We Are Family, the Sister Sledge classic that became the anthem of the 1979 World Series winner. Baseball and disco, perfect together.

Nobody asked me, but ...

I took a friend from Germany on a tour of Brooklyn, my hometown. Thomas Wolfe was wrong. It's not that you can't go home again. It's that you shouldn't.

And why do you think Brooklyn hipsters decided it was a good idea to get into a beard-growing contest with the Hasidic Jews? Word to the first-time Brooklyn visitor: The Hasidic Jews are the ones with the prayer shawls. The hipsters wear Brooklyn Nets baseball caps.

Nobody asked me, but ...

Delta SkyMiles gets no love, so it will be very interesting to see if its shift to revenue-based from miles-based later this year wins any raves. If it does, you can imagine Delta Air Lines solidifying its position atop the legacy-carrier triangle. United Airlines, which hasn't seen a problem it can't alibi, may be permanently locked in second position. And with US Airways management taking over American Airlines in the merger, you can see the "new" American lodged firmly behind United.

Despite his denials, the word's out that David Neeleman is trying to raise funding for a buyout of JetBlue Airways. You remember Neeleman. He founded JetBlue, got it plenty of buzz in the early days, then almost wrecked the airline when he didn't understand the ramifications of the 2007 Valentine's Day meltdown. To Neeleman, I say Thomas Wolfe was wrong. You can go home again. But you shouldn't.

Nobody asked me, but ...

The question I get most frequently these days is "What do I do about the CDW and other phony insurance products car-rental firms try to get you to buy?" The best answer now: Put rentals on the United MileagePlus Explorer Card from Chase. Even if you don't like United, the Explorer Card is cheap enough (first year free, $95 afterwards) and it offers primary rental coverage in most circumstances.

That said, talk to your insurance agent about the kind of car-rental coverage you can get as part of your automobile and home insurance. If they sell a comprehensive global solution--most credit cards don't cover rentals in Ireland, Italy, Spain, Italy, Jamaica and some other nations--consider making it a part of your annual insurance package.

Nobody asked me, but ...

I was speaking to the chief executive of a Oneworld Alliance carrier last week and broached the subject of the strange Middle East dichotomy: Qatar Airways is due to join Oneworld later this year, but key Oneworld player Qantas has entered an alliance with Emirates. "I grant you it's unusual," he said. "But we try to be loosey-goosey with alliances outside of Oneworld. We'll have to see where it goes." Beware when an airline executive says "loosey-goosey" and then says he'll have to see where it goes.

United is breaking a new TV spot to promote its p.s. service that links New York/Kennedy, Los Angeles and San Francisco. You can see it here. The on-screen actor is B.D. Wong, best-known for his stint on one of the Law & Order spin-offs. The voiceover is by actor Matt Damon. The ad is getting generally bad reviews, especially for its claim that flying transcon is "as luxurious as flying overseas." As if flying internationally is any prize.

Nobody asked me, but ...

This is the one day a year when I can handle a John Philip Souza march. What would the bands marching down the Main Street of every town in America play on the Fourth of July if not a Souza march?

I mean, what are our choices? Some local "singer" thinking he's Bing Crosby and crooning Irving Berlin's Let's Say It With Firecrackers? Or, worse, a high-school band imitating Fred Astaire's fireworks tap dance?

Finally, whether grilling in the backyard, saying it with firecrackers, staying in a Holiday Inn (the real kind, not the 1942 Berlin movie where the Crosby and Astaire clips are from) or just cooling your jets, please have a happy Fourth of July weekend!

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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 2013 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2013 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.