The Brancatelli File for 2014
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 is also the former executive editor of Frequent Flyer magazine 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 reporter and created JoeSentMe.com in the dark days after 9/11 while stranded in a hotel room in San Francisco. He lives on the Hudson River in Cold Spring, New York.
December 27: MISSING IN ACTION: AIRASIA 8501
It is almost inconceivable in this day and age, but another aircraft has gone missing in action in Southeast Asia. This time, it's an Airbus A320-200 operated by the Indonesian division of AirAsia. The aircraft was flying between Surabaya in eastern Java and was headed to Singapore with 155 passengers and seven crewmembers. Here's how we've been covering developments--or the lack of them.
December 25: NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT...
It's the last column of the year, so time to catch up with some of the last-minute news of the year. So we'll discuss free hotel WiFi, the continuing nightmare that is United Airlines, Cuba and a little presidential politics, and, in a nod to the holiday season, the best and worst movies available to stream. And, of course, some snark.
November 30: IT'S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE...STRIKE TIME
So you thought you might jet on over to Europe on business, perhaps hit a Christmas market or two in your spare time and maybe get your holiday shopping done quickly and with no fuss and no muss. Not going to happen, my friends. There are five--count' em, five!--strikes that will impact your travel to/from/though Europe in the next few weeks.
November 27: FORGET THE TURKEY, IT'S TRAVEL BARGAIN TIME
We should all be relaxing, thinking about a turkey sandwich and maybe spending some quality time with friends and family. But the travel industry is slowly getting into the holiday-marketing game, too. That's why I'm here and (I hope) you are reading. Airlines, hotels, car-rental firms and other travel markets are offering a raft of supposed deals between Black Friday and the day after Cyber Monday.
November 6: THIS IS YOUR LIFE
The coolest thing about running JoeSentMe is that I get to go one-on-one with members about business travel. They tell me their tales, offer tips, ask questions, air gripes or, mostly, just want to get experiences on the record. "This is our life," one member E-mailed me recently. "Who else would understand it?" So here are some current tales: about JetBlue Mint versus Delta BusinessElite, about great service recovery from Alaska Airlines and about some weird goings-on at Porter Airlines.
October 30: YES, VIRGINIA, THERE ARE STILL HOLIDAY DEALS OUT THERE
There are still some eye-popping premium-class deals to Europe for the Thanksgiving and the Christmas/New Year holidays. And prices seem just about where they were when the sales started back in June. Here's the rundown on nearly a dozen airlines with Europe holiday deals and premium-class prices starting below $1,350 roundtrip.
October 19: STRIKES AND HURRICANES AND EBOLA, OH MY!
There's good news--and bad news--on the road this weekend. But the big story is Ebola and the story is that it's being hyped by the media for poltical and financial reasons. There are plenty of things for business travelers to worry about. Ebola isn't one of them no matter what the mainstream media claims.
October 10: WATCHING THE WHEELS GO ROUND
John Lennon would have been 74 this week, but his admonition to watch the wheels go round make sense for those of us who live our lives on the road. This week, for example, I lived some bizarre extremes at the security checkpoint; found the source for the best place to move our Amex Membership Rewards points; played stranger on an airport train; watched the "genius" Richard Branson tank another airline; and tried to speak the truth about Ebola.
September 26: A FIRESTORM OF CHAOS IN CHICAGO
If we can believe first reports, a disgruntled contract employee of the FAA En Route air traffic control center in the Chicago suburb of Aurora set a fire around daybreak on Friday, September 26. He was later found in the building with apparently self-inflicted knife wounds. Meanwhile, the fire destroyed key equipment, making it impossible for controllers to manage air traffic at O'Hare and Midway airports. The result: a storm of delays and cancellations in the Midwest and nationwide.
September 18: THE FRENCH DO STRIKES THEIR WAY
Incensed that Air France management is attempting to start many new flights at lower-cost operations such as its Transavia unit, Air France's pilots unions--yes, there's more than one--launched a 13-day strike beginning on Monday, September 15. It's gone pretty much as you'd expect: Lots of Gallic arrogance, indifferent customer service and plenty of flight cancellations. Here's how we've covered developments, complete with a pilots strike at Lufthansa and a one-day job action at Austrian Airlines.
September 4: MY CHINA SYNDROME
I have this theory: I was born Chinese and then kidnapped as an infant by a roving band of Italian mothers. That's my story and I'm sticking to it because it's my way of getting into this column for all of us who travel to what is now colloquially referred to as Greater China. We talk about Chengdu's 15 minutes; a nifty new hotel in Hong Kong; Cathay Pacific's decision to fly nonstop from Boston; and the latest black cloud that threatens the growth of US-China travel.
July 24: DO YOU KNOW THE WAY TO TEL AVIV?
When a Hamas missile landed within a mile of Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport, several U.S. airlines immediately cancelled flights to Israel. Then the Federal Aviation Administration banned U.S. carriers from flying to Tel Aviv for several days. Many European airlines followed suit and made Tel Aviv a virtual no-fly zone. Israel wasn't pleased by the decision--and some U.S. politicians grumbled. But coming so soon after the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 disaster, few flyers complained. Here's how we covered it.
July 3: NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT ...
Here's all the travel news, complete with analysis and snark, you need to know this holiday weekend. We go looking for scapegoats at United, explain why we're flying more and enjoying it less, wonder what Penny's last name is, and muse about the new resort built from Marlon Brando's Polynesian hideaway. Plus lots, lots more.
June 20: WHAT'S FRENCH FOR 'DODGED A BULLET'?
The French don't need a reason to strike, of course. But French air traffic controllers, who are so fractious that they are represented by more than one union, think they have a reason: The EC is trying to reorganize the continent's air space, remaking it along geographic lines as opposed to the current national scheme. The French controllers think that'll mean fewer jobs for them. Hence, their threat to strike for six days. Thankfully, the strike didn't last that long. Here's how we covered it.
June 7: IT'S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE ...
The winter holiday business-class sales to Europe are already out. They are much wilder this year than previous holiday seasons: Pricing varies sharply by airline alliance, the purchase-by dates don't match up and roundtrip prices are structured differently. Not to mention that it is June and carriers are still promoting summer business-class sales.
May 29: CRUNCHED KNEES AND ANSWERED QUESTION
What do you guys ask me most frequently? In no particular order: When are airlines going to stop crunching us in smaller and smaller coach seats? What's the best premium-class bargain to Europe? When is Hilton HHonors going to fix the program? Is the Dreamliner reliable now? And why don't airline on-time ratings reflect your flight experiences? I've got the answers and you won't like a few of them.
April 3: TIN EARS, TIN HEARTS AND MH370
We still can't find MH370 because airline executives won't spend as little as a buck a plane an hour to track aircraft. Like the folks at GM who wouldn't spend 57 cents a car to avoid deaths, airline CEOs are the very models of modern major industrialists. They put pennies in front of people. They calculate safety on a balance sheet. Then they claim that the cost of keeping flyers alive--or even knowing where they died--is just a little too high. I have two words for them.
March 27: THE BATTLE FOR SEATTLE
Alaska Airlines has shunned the big alliances and partnered selectively with carriers who want access to its Seattle-Tacoma hub. But one partner, Delta Air Lines, has now turned on Alaska. Eager to trim the Tokyo-based Asia hub it inherited in the Northwest Airlines merger, Delta is refocusing Pacific Rim operations at Sea-Tac. Initially, Alaska was a partner in the build-up. But while retaining a code-share deal, Delta and Alaska are now "fierce competitors" and engaged in one of the first hub wars we've seen in many years.
March 1: COAST-TO-COAST TRAVEL GRIEF
Let's hope that old saw about March coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb is accurate because the lion part has certainly come true. A gigantic storm that began on the West Coast as heavy rains and ended up as a snowmaker in the MidAtlantic played havoc with the air-travel system. More than anything, though, the problem was that this storm came on the back of a brutal season that started before Thanksgiving. Estimates are that the awful weather has cost more than $5 billion.
February 17: THERE'S STILL A MONTH OF WINTER AHEAD
It's been a brutal winter of flying. February has been particularly bad. Then came this week: another round of storms, another meltdown of United's balky passenger-service computers and a strike of security workers at Frankfurt Airport. Given this assault on our mind, our bodies and our schedules, you're forgiven if you are emulating Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons and hissing: Worst. Flying. Ever.
February 12: THIS REALLY ISN'T FUNNY ANYMORE
If someone told you a second ice storm would strike the South in a month, cripple the Atlanta and Charlotte hubs and then turn north to wipe out hubs in the I-95 Corridor, would you believe them? Of course not. Yet it happened. Fast and hard and at the cost of thousands of cancelled flights and who knows how many disrupted plans. Here is how we covered this particular ice and snowmaker that wiped us out for a week. And forgive the notable lack of humor. These storms just aren't funny anymore.
February 3: IT'S BEEN FEBRUARY SINCE NOVEMBER
It's February and even the most churlish business travelers can't be too angry when February storms play havoc with their schedules. But it seems as if it's been February since November--with awful weather to match. So when back-to-back storms pounded us from the Rockies to the Atlantic Ocean again this week, it just seemed, well, too cruel for school.
January 27: WHEN IT'S SNOWY TIME DOWN SOUTH
When the weather forecasters warned that a big snow and ice storm would hit the South from the Mississippi River to the Atlantic Coast, everyone expected trouble. In the air and on the ground. Everyone except for the people who run the state of Georgia and the city of Atlanta. They had no emergency plan and apparently didn't know that they were supposed to have one--even though a similar storm three years ago shut down the state for days.
January 20: A LOUSY 60 DAYS OF TRAVEL
Just when we thought it was safe to get back out on the road after the chaos of the New Year's storm, we got whacked again with snow and extraordinarily cold weather. This new storm was unique--in a bad way--since it clogged Chicago and blanketed East Coast hubs from Boston to Charlotte. In other words, a particular brand of hell for frequent travelers, part of a particularly lousy 60 days of bad weather dating back to just before last Thanksgiving.
January 16: LOAD 'EM UP AND GRIT IT OUT
If we learn nothing else from the past months of lousy weather and record-shattering flight delays, we must learn this: Load up our laptops, tablets and smartphones with diversions to help pass the time. You don't need me to point you to the great current stuff that's out there. But here's my best effort to offer up some off-the-beaten-track suggestions for what to have at your fingertips during your next delay.
January 9: WHAT I WON'T CARE ABOUT IN 2014
Already tired of 2014 Top Ten lists, annual predictions and pompous columns about what's coming next? Me, too. You won't get that from me. Instead, I'm gonna tell you what I don't care about this year in travel. I hope you'll find my lack of interest in these things matches your own indifference. And, along the way, maybe we can burst some bubbles and egos.
January 2: HAPPY NEW BUSINESS-TRAVEL YEAR! NOT!
So how was your holiday? Quiet because you didn't have to be on the road until the new year? Well, surprise. Meet the new business-travel year, same as the old business-travel year: lots of snow, cancellations, delays and airline double-talk when it comes to their supposed travel waivers.
These columns originally appeared at JoeSentMe.com.
Copyright © 1993-2014 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.