The Brancatelli File for 2016
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 22: HOTELS AND HOT POT
What you need to know before the end of the year: why hotels in American "Asiatowns" are more pricey than nearby properties. The chaos at Etihad engulfing major airlines around the world. The nightmare for Nigeria flyers. And, oh, yeah, don't mention the elections in-flight.

December 15: THE YEAR OF LODGING DANGEROUSLY
It's guaranteed that 2017 will be a monumental year for hotel frequent guest programs and many will undergo profound changes. So why chase status that may be a waste of your time and your lodging dollar? Here are some tips and strategies for surviving the year of lodging dangerously with a modicum of style and comfort.

December 8: A THOUGHTFUL BUSINESS TRAVEL GIFT GUIDE
Most gift guides claiming to be for frequent flyers are crap. But I've given a lot of thought to this year's guide. It's stuffed with items that make life on the road a little more relaxing and productive, a little more comfortable and convenient. Business travelers need less crap in their lives and the best gifts work without adding any heft or weight to their carry-ons.

December 1: GIVING BA'S BUSINESS CLASS THE BUSINESS
Like a lot of you, Alex Cruz isn't a big fan of BA's business class across the Atlantic. He doesn't think the food is good enough. He believes the in-flight service must improve. He's convinced that BA lounges at key U.S. gateways aren't up to par. And he knows that the British Airways Club World seatbed is outdated. The difference between you, me and Cruz? He's in a position to do something about BA's shortcomings. After all, he is chairman and chief executive of the airline.

November 26: PICK A COLOR, PICK A CLASS, PICK A PROMOTIONAL FARE
I've lost track of all the colors and all the days people are using to offer holiday-themed promotional prices on everything from power tools to pashmina shawls. But you'll find huge airline deals. Fares start below $400 in coach to Europe and around $500 to Asia. There are good premium economy fares, too, and a sale that knocks business class prices to Europe down to as low as $1,500 roundtrip.

November 3: HYATT'S A SMALL WORLD AFTER ALL
Hyatt Hotels, a flyspeck compared to Hilton and Marriott/SPG, changes its frequency plan next year. But instead of using the new program to lure new business travelers willing to trade location for perks, Hyatt is telling guests that it's all about how much you give Hyatt. It's part of the Brutalist Era of frequent travel program design and business travelers should push back just as brutally.

October 27: ROMAN HOLIDAY: THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE MEATBALL
I'm out of practice with vacations, not having had an honest-to-goodness, no-work holiday for around a decade. So it was with an odd mix of skepticism, hope, hunger and trepidation that I decamped for a few days in Rome. My Roman Holiday didn't go quite to plan--a family crisis erupted back home--but I came away with the good, the bad and the meatball of it all. Allow me to explain.

October 4: MATTHEW IS ON THE WAY
Shocking as it may seem, it's been a decade since Florida was hit with a major hurricane and 12 years since that horrendous spate of storms in 2004. But now Hurricane Matthew, a Category 4 monster, is threatening to do major wind, rain and storm surge damage. At risk: virtually the entire state of Florida, coastal Georgia and the Carolinas. Millions are on the move in hopes of avoiding the worst impact.

September 22: THE COWARDS AND TRAITORS ARE STILL AMONG US
I launched Joe Sent Me 15 years ago this week with a column that decried the racism and hatred we saw at airports after 9/11. Now I see the same ugly trends all over America, led by a hateful grifter who makes fun of the disabled, ridicules war heroes and wants to ban people because of their religion and ethnic background. I will say today what I said 15 years ago: These people are cowards and traitors and America must fight back against their hate.

August 8: DELTA MELTS DOWN AND ACTS LIKE DELTA
In the early hours of a summer Monday morning, Delta Air Lines suffered an internal power failure at its Atlanta hub. Delta immediately swung into action. It lied about the problem, blaming Georgia Power, the local utility, delayed and cancelled thousands of flights and kept tens of thousands of travelers on-hold for hours. It doled out travel waivers in a niggling way so that flyers couldn't plan alternate arrangements. And, finally, as the situation began to improve on Wednesday afternoon, it scrubbed its publicity operation of the earlier misleading claims and assertions. In other words, an arrogant airline doing what it does best. Here's how we covered the situation.

July 15: THIS IS NOT A TURKISH DELIGHT
Turkey's military, long the bastion of secularism in the overwhelmingly Islamic state, on July 15 tried a coup against the increasingly repressive president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Among the battle zones: Istanbul's main international airport, the hub of Star Alliance carrier Turkish Airlines. The so-called colonel's coup failed, the airport reopened and Turkish Airlines itself was later purged of alleged traitors. Even the carrier's Istanbul lounge was renamed.

July 14: NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT ...
The feds give up on finding DB Cooper. Delta can't find the right airport. How airlines make us nasty to our other supplies. Plus plenty of Trump, sports, global snark and a wonderful mini-musical by United Airlines before it had friendly skies and Gershwin tunes.

July 7: THE WHY OF IT ALL
Why have the rules of frequent flyer programs changed? Why are airlines, according to their own statement before the Supreme Court, above the dictates of "good faith and fair dealing" with flyers? Why are airlines turning their programs into afterthoughts that we can largely ignore without fear of losing any truly valuable perks or freebies?

June 2: ON THE MENU OFF THE AIRPORT NEAR SFO
If life is what happens while we're busily making other plans, life on the road is what happens while we're between flights. So when my flights didn't change, but I ended up spending a week in Burlingame, at SFO, instead of in San Francisco, it was just another bit of life on the road. But at least I ate well and can recommend these spots within a stone's throw of SFO's runways.

May 12: NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT ...
Do you think the failures of the TSA would be an issue in the presidential campaign if only either candidate actually flew commercial in the last few decades? How about those wacky hotel prices? Do you really think they spent $20,000 on a hammer? Why I carry my own roll-your-own tea bags now. All this, more news, views and the snark of the day.

May 10: ANOTHER BIG PREMIUM CLASS FARE DUMP FROM BA AND ONEWORLD
Assuming you have depleted the cache of tickets you purchased during the Great (and Still Unexplained) British Airways Giveaway last October, you'll want to know BA is back with another big sale. This latest flash offer isn't nearly as deep as October's fire sale. But it is quite hefty. And, yes, you can apply Avios points, the AARP discount and even a special Chase BA credit card discount to lower prices even more.

April 21: SCREW THE FREQUENT FLYER PROGRAMS
I gotta go to Chicago next week and, without even knowing it, I was kicking the final vestiges of airline loyalty to the metaphoric curb. I bought price and schedule, arranged for my own perks and realized that it's cheaper and easier to buy what I wanted rather than expect it as a reward for being obsessively loyal to a carrier. In fact, it's time frequent flyers stopped being loyal to frequent flyer programs and look out for their own best interests.

March 31: NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT ...
Marriott trumps China in the battle for Starwood. Who wants to own Virgin America--and why? Thoughts on Sterling Archer, the world's most dangerous spy, Donald Trump, the world's most dangerous short-fingered vulgarian, and Patty Duke and her identical cousin. Good things about United (yes, United) Airlines. The end of the real Fawlty Towers and an "airline" executive who peddles stock. Much more timely news and breaking snark when you dive into the danger zone.

March 22: A WEEK OF TERROR ... AND SPRING SNOW
The Paris terror attacks last November were perpetrated by Islamic radicals working out of and hiding in Brussels. When the supposed ringleader was finally arrested on Friday, March 18, his terror cell responded by attacking Brussels Zaventem Airport and the Brussels Metro system on Tuesday, March 22. Then, bizarrely, a freak snowstorm shut down Denver International on Wednesday. The juxtaposition would have been funny ... if it wasn't all so sad. Here's how we're covering events.

March 17: WHAT TIME'S THAT FLIGHT TO GLOCCA MORRA?
March has already been a terrible month to travel, what with lengthening TSA security lines, goofy board battles and endless cuts to our "loyalty" programs. 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.

February 11: JOE TOURIST
You're cold. You're tired. You need a vacation. So, just this once, let's not talk about business travel. Let me remove my official journalist's trench coat and press card, grab a pair of shorts and reemerge as--tah, dah!--Joe Tourist. In my secret identity as mild-mannered Joe Tourist, I've developed a jillion useful rules. Allow me to offer just the golden ones. They work any time, any day, any place.

January 21: TIME FOR ANOTHER "STORM OF THE CENTURY"
A year ago at this time, the nation endured what the National Weather Service called an "historic storm." Weeks of snow followed. In fact, Boston was still digging out some mounds of collected snow (and trash) in June. The storm that whacked the Northeast and MidAtlantic turned out to be at least as bad although preparation was better and there was less early panic and less in-storm chaos. Here's how we covered events.

These columns originally appeared at JoeSentMe.com.

Copyright 1993-2016 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.