The Brancatelli File for 2015
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 17: 'TWAS NOT THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS
You may already have been in the holiday mood, but the business-travel news isn't. So before you check out mentally, please read this column to understand what's happening with Cuba flights, why flights to Paris are flatlining and how Delta cuts deals with the Gulf Carriers, its self-appointed devils. Only the airline business could work this way.
November 19: THE END OF FREQUENT FLYER PLANS AS WE KNEW THEM
We can make believe this week's devaluations of AAdvantage and Sky Miles are shocking, scandalous, outrageous and insulting. I can detail every minute downgrade, write a fist-shaking screed, stoke your righteous anger and urge you to fight back by switching to an alternative airline that we know really doesn't exist any longer. Or we can tell ourselves the truth: We knew these were coming. We know what the people who run the programs think of us. And, most importantly, we can start a discussion about how it's time to stop believing airlines will ever again repay our loyalty in any substantive and genuine manner.
October 15: A BUSINESS CLASS BONANZA
A business class sale to London becomes a Europe-wide sale that ranges from the Thanksgiving holidays all the way to the middle of next summer. When you stack a few deals atop each other, business class seats are selling for as little as $1,200 roundtrip, even from the West Coast.
October 8: AND THEN THE AIRLINES DID THIS ...
The latest airline tales of controversial flights to Tel Aviv and Tokyo. How Cathay Pacific tries to avoid being a commodity airline on the ground. And how Alaska Airlines and Emirates team up to fight Delta Air Lines in the Pacific Northwest.
October 1: IGNORE UNITED'S APOLOGIES. FOLLOW THE MONEY.
The official United Airlines apology tour has begun and you shouldn't believe a word of it. Follow the money instead. Rather than use $3 billion to repair and upgrade United's tattered operations, new boss Oscar Munoz is sending it out the door to mollify mostly undeserving shareholders and yapping Wall Street analysts. Oscar says he's sorry the merger was bad and the airline stinks, but he's got more important priorities.
September 3: SAYING NO TO LUFTHANSA'S OFFENSIVE NEW BOOKING FEE
Nothing is simpler than the first rule of airline management: Always blame the customer. This week it's Lufthansa blaming customers when it is actually at war with the GDS systems that control most ticket transactions. So since Lufthansa has dragged us into the fight by charging us $18 when we choose our own booking solutions, I say we fight back by boycotting Lufthansa. Don't book 'em and don't fly 'em until they rescind the fee.
August 20: AIRLINES SAY THE DARNEDEST THINGS
We're used to airlines lying to us. It's the coin of their realm. But recent whoppers from Delta, United and Southwest Airlines shed real light on the state of business travel today. The lies are so blatant, so stupid, so devoid of truth or reason that you have to wonder why we fly these turkeys.
August 13: THE REST OF THE STORY
Not fully convinced that Dublin and Aer Lingus will become a vital part of the transatlantic firmament after the plucky Irish carrier is purchased by IAG, the company that controls BA and Iberia? Here's the background on how it'll work and how Aer Lingus pulled itself back from the brink and created a top-notch, high-value business-class service.
July 23: NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT ...
What's happening in travel this week? Well, there's Trump and Smisek and Mica, oh my! Musings on amazing hotel service and rotten airline advertising. Snarky comments about Canadian border authorities and airline "upgauging." And, of course, all the business-travel news that's fit to skewer.
May 14: TWO OUT OF THREE ON THE ROAD AIN'T BAD
Let us consider Meat Loaf, airline chief executives and the concept of two out of three ain't bad. When it comes to the self-important SkyGods who run airlines, I'm always looking for a ruby in a mountain of rocks and a Coupe de Ville at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box. But a life on the road has taught me that there are no rubies and Coupe de Villes. Still, I'll take two out of three on the road. And today I can report that this week we actually did get two out of three when it comes to airline bosses.
May 7: NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT ...
It's been another weird week on the road, so I've got all of the things you need: 12 angry men, Stubby Kaye, in-flight WiFi, the ongoing battle between the U.S. and Gulf carriers and much more. Plus, of course, plenty of snark.
April 7: APRIL STRIKES IN EUROPE BRING ... WELL, CHAOS
April showers may bring May flowers, but April is also bringing a raft of strikes to the European continent. In France, the union representing about 40 percent of the nation's air traffic controllers has called for three strikes. There is also a general strike on tap for Belgium and continuing strikes in Portugal this month. Plus, mass transit stoppages in Ireland and Germany.
April 2: FAIR IS FAIR ... UNLESS YOU'RE A U.S. AIRLINE
American Airlines pulled off a mostly seamless merger of US Airways Dividend Miles into American AAdvantage last weekend. Then it dropped the hammer, adding verbiage explaining the carrier has no intent of dealing with us fairly. Delta has already said the same thing. Ironically, these carriers want our support against the Gulf airlines because they claim the Gulfies are being unfair. The irony is delicious and karma's a bitch, ain't it?
March 26: MEANWHILE, IN A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY ...
Before the Germanwings crash, the big travel news was the $15 transatlantic fares that would never exist from an airline that won't fly with aircraft they don't own. That and a raft of game-changing hotels that don't exist, either. Why are so many travel writers obsessed with the nonexistent and the trivial? And why don't they have the skepticism that comes with a life on the road?
March 19: MARCH MADNESS ... AND NOT THE GOOD KIND
This is the time of year that we're supposed to be reveling in college basketball's March Madness. And the first day of 16 games had some bracket-busting upsets. But it's been March Madness on the road this week, too, and that is not fun. We're gutting out days of strikes at Lufthansa, an air traffic control strike in Italy, a last-minute winter storm and some odd behavior from our fellow flyers. Here's how we covered developments.
March 12: NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT...
Why are Hillary Clinton and Delta using the same excuses? How come I already have Next President Derangement Syndrome? The American-US Airways mileage merger is due next month, so here's what to do. Great stuff on the Web (Credit Karma) versus awful stuff on the Net (TripAdvisor). Thoughts about Archer, Community, the CIA Twitter feed and plenty of snark for Friday the 13th.
March 5: THE IN-LIKE-A-LION THING
Let's be honest: The weather has bitch-slapped us all winter. January on the road was bad. February was a disaster and March, well, you know what they say. We can only hope for some mutton-like relief as the month wears on. Back-to-back-to-back storms from Texas to the Eastern Seaboard have made the early part of March a nightmare for business travelers and the airlines that claim to serve them.
February 19: HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD (ON YOUR SEATBACK MONITOR)
The Oscars are Sunday, but I never watch the show because I never see movies until they show up on airline IFE systems. Which means I don't get to see the end of a lot of movies and I kinda, sorta get a skewed view of the flicks I do catch on the seatback monitor. But I fix this with fast and totally accurate summaries of some films you'll be offered on your next flight.
February 16: WORST. FEBRUARY. EVER.
The number says this winter isn't a patch on the kind of awful season we had last year. And it's hard to argue with the numbers or forget the fall and winter from hell that was late 2013 and early 2014. But, man, this February has been brutal. New England is buried in record snowfalls and New York, the MidAtlantic and the Mid South have been whacked, too.
February 12: SKYMILES ON THE STAIRWAY TO CLEVELAND
Delta Air Lines' SkyMiles program this week deleted its award charts, forced you to rely on a provably broken pricing engine and imposed new restrictions on its lowest-priced awards. You not only got no advance notice, Delta won't tell you about it now. Why? Because the SkyMiles mantra is "Fuck you! We do what we want!"
January 31: ANOTHER WEEK, ANOTHER BIG WINTER STORM
Feeling a little circumspect after last week's "missed by this much" prediction of an "historic" storm for the entire Northeast Corridor, the National Weather Service was being very careful about making a call for this next system. The storm turned out to be a bit of an oddball, too, stretching horizontally from the Midwest to the Northeast. Here's how we covered it.
January 25: AN 'HISTORIC,' IF SOMEWHAT SELECTIVE, STORM
The usually circumspect National Weather Service predicted an "historic" storm for the Northeast--and the NWS was right, just selectively. The Washington Metro area was relatively unscathed. Philadelphia and New York dodged the bullet. But most of New England didn't. Parts of Maine and Massachusetts got socked with 36 inches of snow and more than two feet fell on Boston/Logan Airport.
These columns originally appeared at JoeSentMe.com.
Copyright © 1993-2015 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.