THE BRANCATELLI FILE FOR 2013

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 5: AND IT ISN'T EVEN WINTER YET...
We mostly dodged a bullet during Thanksgiving week when the storms weren't quite as bad as predicted and most people got where they were going. But this week has been brutal, with an ice storm taking down Dallas/Fort Worth and American Airlines for several days.

November 24: BAD WEATHER AND BAD TRAVELERS AHEAD
Isn't this special? Thanksgiving is just days away. A pre-winter storm is threatening the nation's air-travel system just as it will be clogged for some of the busiest flight days of the year. And the system will be overwhelmed with infrequent flyers who are least able to cope. Here are a few ways to cope and protect yourself.

October 31: PLATINUM & SAPPHIRE & POINTS, OH MY!
For the better part of two decades, American Express Membership Rewards has ruled the roost with business travelers looking to earn points for their spending and protect themselves against airline and hotel devaluations. Now a 5-year-old challenger, Chase Ultimate Rewards, makes a case that it is top of the heap. Which is better? Here's an earn and burn analysis for practical frequent travelers.

July 6: THE CRASH OF ASIANA FLIGHT 214
On an otherwise languid and long July 4 weekend, Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash landed at San Francisco International Airport. Here's how we covered the developing story, from the first reports to the closure of SFO to the disclosure that the pilot in charge was a "trainee" and had never landed a Boeing 777 at SFO.

July 4: NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT ...
Some thoughts--and plenty of snark--about the new wave of uber-tiny hotel rooms; United's new TV commercial; the dawn of the three-tiered legacy carrier classification; why you can--but probably shouldn't--go home again; the best way to beat the CDW and other car-rental "junk insurance"; and much more.

May 23: GROUNDED BY MY FATHER'S LIFE
I got the most annoying 60th birthday present yesterday: My father's life, complete with his illnesses and even the same drugs with ridiculous names that I remember he had to take. It made him crazy and old before his time. Me? Suddenly, after going 30 years without seeing a doctor or having my business-travel life complicated by medical complications, I am sick, in pain--and grounded.

April 26: STATISTICS SAY THE SKY ISN'T FALLING
Here are the facts about delays since the sequester-inspired furloughs of air controllers began last Sunday: Three days this week racked up a better on-time rating than last week, before the furloughs began. Only two days have had lower numbers. So why are Chicken Littles claiming the sky is falling? Because all of them--politicians, bureaucrats, even the media--have a vested interest in convincing you we've got a crisis of delays. Here are the real numbers and a cool-headed analysis.

April 20: STRIKING SITUATIONS
Airline strikes are rare in the United States now, but actually seem to be picking up elsewhere in the world. Hence the simultaneous (if unrelated) job actions mounted at Lufthansa and in Israel this week. And then there is the sequestration-inspired layoff of air-traffic controllers, which government officials claim could lead to hours-long delays at major airports around the country. In other words, not a great time to be a frequent flyer. Here's how we have covered things.

March 21: THE HIGH COST OF RESTING YOUR HEAD ON A NEW YORK BED
As we struggle to understand the devaluation of many hotel frequency plans, it's worth looking at the (always) unique situation in New York City. It boils down to this: Right now, 50,000 Hilton HHonors points gets you an award night at the Conrad, the best Hilton in town. Two weeks from now, the same 50,000 points will get you an award night at a Hampton Inn next to the on-ramp of the Brooklyn Bridge. Here's how Hilton and eight other major programs stack up in the Big Apple.

March 14: HOW'S THE FLIGHT TO GLOCCA MORRA?
March has already been a terrible month to fly, what with bad storms snarling traffic in both Europe (this week) and the United States (last week). So let's skip business travel this week and talk songs, saints and sfingi. It all makes some kind of cockamamie sense if you stick with me and want to hear why St. Joseph's Day is about food, St. Patrick's Day is about music and why Buddy Clark did many more great tunes besides Glocca Morra.

March 5: STORMY WEATHER
A classic episode of The Simpsons showed Marge and Homer trudging through the snow to Town Hall to discuss Springfield calendars that mysteriously had 13 months. As he shakes off the cold and the snow, all Homer could mutter was: "Lousy Smarch weather!" And that's us. Just when we thought we'd survived the worst the winter could throw at us, we get hit with a lousy Smarch storm.

February 28: 10(-K) REASONS TO HATE THE MERGER
Did you know that the US Airways-American Airlines merger is doomed and that both carriers have already told the feds exactly where and how it will fail? No joke. Read the Form 10-K filings they dropped on the SEC. The warnings are dire. Awful. Downright apocalyptic. Of course, it's just CYA legal jargon. But it's amazing when SEC boilerplate has such an uncanny ring of truth. Plus tidbits about the two airlines and their frequent flyer programs that they'd prefer you not know.

February 14: THE MERGER YADA YADA
To paraphrase Seinfeld, I'm just gonna yada yada this American-US Airways thing. It's that boring. And you know why airline merger stuff is one gigantic bore? Because it's all so damned predictable. So predictable that the moment United and Continental linked up almost three years ago, we started talking about an American-US Airways deal. Besides, the only winner is Doug Parker, who's proven he's no friend of frequent flyers.

February 7: THIS IS WHAT WE DO IN FEBRUARY
Massive February blizzards in the East shouldn't surprise business travelers. After all, more years than not offer up some kind of winter whack. We'll know soon whether Winter Storm Nemo will just be a run-of-the-mill February annoyance or one of those once-a-decade nightmares. And, yes, it's okay to wish you'd cashed miles for a trip to Florida or Hawaii.

January 31: IN 2013, THE SUPER BOWL LAY IN RUINS
I couldn't care less about the Super Bowl, but I understand that you feel differently. So I will deliver the news fast so you can go back to your game. Some thoughts about how BlackBerry didn't mention the physical keyboard; how those expecting a Spanish Inquisition thanks to outgoing DOT Secretary LaHood's new regulations didn't get one; and how the Boeing Dreamliner has troubles, but is not expired, bereft of life or an ex-aircraft.

January 24: NONSTOP TO THE FIRE SWAMP
My flight from Florin City to Guilder this week was delayed for hours and there's nothing quite like sitting in the Florin airport lounge thinking about life in the fire swamp. Like what happens when a guy references Inigo Montoya in-flight? And is Vizzini running United Airlines into the ground? Is Count Rugen running snow-challenged Heathrow? All this and many more references to The Princess Bride.

January 10: NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT ...
Why all the nervousness about the Dreamliner when all new planes have the same teething problems? Why is Southwest paying Delta to take Boeing 717s off its hands? An office clean-out leads to some old stories that make incredible claims about life on the road. Plus a joke here and there and some seasonal snark.

These columns originally appeared at JoeSentMe.com.

Copyright 1993-2013 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.