The Brancatelli File By Joe Brancatelli
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Nobody Asked Me, But ...
Thursday, August 23, 2018 -- Nobody asked me, but ...

The Marriott-Starwood data merger last weekend should have gone better, but it could have been worse. Get used to that assessment because it is probably the best you'll get from the name-to-be-disclosed-later combined Marriott-Ritz-Starwood program.

Marriott has graciously decided that you can now combine your Marriott Rewards and SPG accounts. It won't do it for you, of course. You must proactively log in and combine accounts manually. The process--at least for me--was painless and did accurately reflect my current status. Your mileage may vary.

My advice remains unchanged: Unless you can reach the top level of a hotel program--say Hyatt Globalist--status is mostly meaningless these days. Acquire credit cards that confer some status, then book hotels on traditional metrics: location, price, services, whatever is practically important to you. Chasing hotel status--like airline status--is mostly a waste of energy.

Nobody asked me, but ...

The current airline ecosystem works like this: Delta Air Lines does something and most other carriers--especially United and American--fall in line. Not so seatback videos and in-flight entertainment systems.

Delta this week boasted that it had installed monitors on its 600th aircraft. "Customers continue to tell us they're important," said Tim Mapes, Delta's chief marketing officer. Yet United, American, Alaska and Hawaiian have been ripping monitors off their planes and/or taking delivery of new aircraft without them. Their theory: It's cheaper and more practical to stream entertainment directly to the screens that passengers carry aboard.

Delta is probably right to stick with seatback monitors for now. The other carriers are correct in the longer term. Passenger preference will soon move to streaming entertainment to their own devices: phones, laptops, tablets, whatever. And when it moves, it'll move with lightning speed, as fast as hotel guests stopped paying attention to in-room phones because they had mobile phones. That'll leave Delta with costly to fly and expensive to maintain seatback monitors long after passengers are watching the 50th season of The Simpsons or the 499th rerun of Friends on their personal screens.

Nobody asked me, but ...

Speaking of in-room phones, hotels keep them around for safety and security issues--and to ward off liability if they are needed by a guest for safety or security reasons. They stopped being moneymakers for hotels forever ago.

Which is why I think it's clever that the two-month-old AC Marriott in Portland, Maine, has taken a minimalist approach: A slimline handset with a single button for all in-house calls. By comparison, a Hyatt Place property I visited this week had an old-line desktop phone with a half-dozen buttons to dial hotel departments. It even had a rate card cluttering the desk. When was the last time you even looked at a hotel-phone rate card?

Meanwhile, that brand-spanking-new AC Marriott and the four-plus-year-old Hyatt Place shared a flaw: a paucity of hooks in the bathroom. If we're being urged to hang up and reuse towels for ecological reasons--Translation: the hotel laundry bill goes down--why is there only one hook per bathroom? Hooks cost pennies. Give us some bathroom hooks, hotel designers. I'm begging you.

Nobody asked me, but ...

Duncan Hunter, a Republican Congressman from the San Diego area, was indicted on Tuesday for everything from using campaign funds for theater and sports tickets to a $14,000 family holiday to Italy. It's almost like you can't trust a guy who used campaign funds to pay a $600 charge for transporting the family's pet rabbit on a flight.

When the Office of Congressional Ethics investigated Hunter on the rabbit charges, his spokesman blamed frequent flyer miles. Now that he's been busted by the feds, Hunter--and his father, Duncan Hunter Sr., who formerly held the seat--says the whole thing is a Democratic witch hunt. Odd how many witches the witch hunts have been finding.

Also: The guy paid an airline $600 to transport a rabbit. He's even dumber than he is corrupt.

Nobody asked me, but ...

American Airlines chief executive Doug Parker in 2016 bet an airline securities analyst a bottle of wine that AAL stock would hit $60 a share before the analyst turned 60 years old on November 25, 2018.

American closed on Wednesday at $39.19, lower than it traded when Parker made the bet. Bloomberg notes AAL would have to rise 50 percent in the next 90 days or so for Parker to win.

If I'm the airline analyst, maybe I'd take AAdvantage miles instead of a bottle of wine. Have you tasted some of the plonk American serves?

Nobody asked me, but ...

I have actually gotten snail-mail spam. When I got home from the airport Tuesday, there was an envelope with a Canadian postmark. Inside was a note, purportedly from TD Canada Trust, explaining that someone named Geo Brancatelli died ten years ago leaving USD$9.2 million unclaimed. All I had to do was contact the account manager, MR. DANIEL SCHAD, and he'd "present me as the next of kin." Mr. Schad said he expected confidentiality, half the $9 million and a response to his private E-mail address.

The E-mail address was @yandex.com, a Russian tech outfit. These guys hacked our elections? How bad are our election processes if this is the kind of stuff the Russians think works on us?

Of course, I do so want to respond to Mr. Schad. Maybe he knows who hacked the elections.

This column is Copyright 2018 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2018 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved. 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.