The Brancatelli File By Joe Brancatelli
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Nobody Asked Me, But ...
Thursday, December 6, 2018 -- Nobody asked me, but ...

Air Italy made a little splash this week by announcing it would fly nonstop from its Milan/Malpensa hub to both San Francisco and Los Angeles. That immediately brought howls of outrage from U.S. airlines. They claim Qatar Airways, which owns 49 percent of Air Italy and wants to bootstrap it into "flag carrier" status against eternally enfeebled Alitalia, is wounding American interests and costing American jobs.

I could go on and on and explain the ins and outs of this stupid intramural fight, but let me make just two points: 1) U.S. carriers complaining about Air Italy all have immunized antitrust deals with European carriers that already wound U.S. interests and cost American jobs; and 2) Never listen when airlines enlist support from bozos like Ted Cruz and Johnny Isakson, a wholly owned subsidiary of Delta Air Lines.

Nobody asked me, but ...

Without getting deeper into this crap, you might recall that the United States government washed its hands of the Middle East imbroglio earlier this year after a meaningless, face-saving agreement was reached. Delta and American Airlines then promised to resume flights to India. Number of India flights added or announced by Delta or American this year? Zero.

All you really need to know about this years-long attack on Middle East carriers by U.S. airlines is that the U.S. airlines simply don't want competition. It's no more complicated than that. They take tens of millions in government subsidies via tax abatements, route subsidies and airport "promotional" arrangements, yet claim the Middle East carriers are somehow illegally subsidized. It's all BS. It is, in fact, fake news.

Nobody asked me, but ...

Untuckit, a company that advertises that its shirts are specially designed to be, well, untucked, has been valued at $600 million in an attempt to raise additional capital.

Just for the record, I've worn my shirts untucked forever and I value myself at a buck fifty. But I'm not even sure I could raise a buck fifty from Morgan Stanley.

Nobody asked me, but ...

Major handset makers are having a harder-than-expected time convincing us to spend $1,000 on new smartphones. Why? Because we're not stupid. If you use an iPhone, there are plenty of ways to tune up your device without upgrading. There's very little that the newest version of Android can do that your current phone can't.

I put my money where my column is. I recently upgraded to a two-year-old, discontinued HTC phone from a 2013 model that had a crack on the screen. The new-in-the-box unit cost me $240, reduced from the 2016 price of $700. And, frankly, while I like the larger screen, it's not that much more powerful and the sound isn't nearly as good as my old phone with the dual speakers.

Nobody asked me, but ...

Doug Parker, chief executive of American Airlines and chief architect of the carrier's operational decline, is a lousy stock picker. He's had to pay off a bet to an airline analyst because American's stock is selling more than a third below where Parker had predicted.

United Airlines chief executive Oscar Munoz is getting a ton of nationwide publicity because he gave up his first class seat to an elderly passenger. Imagine that. An airline executive gives up a better seat to a paying customer and the world reacts with shock and awe.

Nobody asked me, but ...

Austin-Bergstrom Airport moved the location where passengers grab a taxi or a ride-share and flyers are justifiably pissed. Rather than just walking out of the terminal and hailing, you now must trudge a half-mile through two parking garages and deal with elevators and escalators. Or, in a uniquely Texas thing, you hop a shuttle to someplace where you can hail a ride.

Not gonna lie to you: I'm avoiding the new LaGuardia Airport terminal in New York until mid-January, after the holidays and after a well-earned (I think) holiday. My expectations are extraordinarily low--hey, I'm a New Yorker, expecting the worst is what we do best--but we shall see. Meanwhile, if you want to share your LGA experiences, happy to hear the tale.

Nobody asked me, but ...

Speaking of my holidays holiday, I'm packing all my old clothes and planning to toss them along the way. (I'd donate them, but they are so threadbare that they actually deserve to die.) Since it's a two-week trip, I will check a bag. But my goal is to come back only with a carry-on.

If you're not planning a holidays holiday, maybe consider visiting your nearest big city for an urban getaway. Hotel rates between December 18 and December 28 are tumbling. A room I booked in Manhattan just skidded to $127 from $259.

Nobody asked me, but ...

After learning the GOP lost 40 seats in the House in last month's election, President Trump said it was due to voter fraud. People voted then came back in disguise to vote again, he claimed. Um, probably not. More likely? Trump screened Mrs. Doubtfire and Madea's Family Reunion and confused them with Fox News.

By the way, in case you missed the final House "standings," the Democrats won 235 seats, the Republicans have 197 seats, two indicted sitting Congressmen are probably going to jail (Duncan Hunter of California and Chris Collins of New York) and North Carolina 9 is now rated "lean prison."

Nobody asked me, but ...

The paper SkyGuide delivered its final issue this week. If you were one of the six remaining subscribers, maybe consider using this site instead.

U.S. airlines now are offering all manner of end-of-year buy-ups to maintain or elevate your status in 2019. Let me make this simple: No. Just no. Prices are ridiculously high. Yet there's no guarantee the airlines won't continue devaluing the programs in general and elite status in particular. Latest trick: Booking you into basic economy when you claim a coach award. Delta admits it's testing exactly that scheme and United has been doing it surreptitiously for at least a month.

Nobody asked me, but ...

Bob McGarvey this week reviews measures to guard against hotel hacks. I have a much simpler, if not foolproof approach: Designate one credit card for online use and restrict its use to online purchases. I understand the need to maximize earnings by using each card's category accelerators. I get the need to hit those spend requirements for big acquisition bonuses. But using just one card on the Web and restricting it to online use does compartmentalize your risk.

The Marriott hackers weren't only after financial details and IDs. They want the Marriott Rewards points, too. After they steal 'em, how long will it be before the hackers start complaining about how their stolen points have been devalued?

Nobody asked me, but ...

Overheard at the supermarket across from the hotel:
Customer: What happened to Steve?
Clerk: Moved him to registers because too many customers complained when he was on the customer service desk.
Customer: Where is he? I don't see him.
Clerk: He went to work at the hotel.

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.