The Brancatelli File By Joe Brancatelli
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Nobody Asked Me, But ...
April 4, 2019 -- Nobody asked me, but ...

JetBlue Airways has hinted for years that it would make London its first transatlantic destination. I have speculated about it for more than a decade. It looks like JetBlue will confirm it next week and we just found out where it'll fly: New York/Kennedy and Boston to London/Gatwick. It's not that JetBlue told us. Delta Air Lines did. Delta today made an announcement about flying from Boston/Logan and JFK to Gatwick "next summer." When a carrier announces new routes with no dates or details, it's a sure sign they're trying to beat a competitor to the PR punch. Delta's major competitor at JFK and Boston? JetBlue. See how it works?

Gatwick makes sense for JetBlue. With no beyond-London connections, virtually all of JetBlue's customers would be point-to-point flyers or folks connecting at its Logan or JFK hubs from other JetBlue cities. More flights to more London airports is always good, of course. But JetBlue's entry would also mean the best business class product between the United States and Britain. Its Mint service is miles better than any other carrier on the route.

Nobody asked me, but ...

Twitter is a cesspool, but there are moments of brilliance. The frequent-flying sportswriter Kristie Ackert this week tweeted her disdain for Delta Air Lines. Another sportswriter, Colin Stephenson, had the perfect Twitter rejoinder: "They're all bad. Like teams tanking to win the lottery."

I would go further than that. When they win the lottery, U.S. airlines invariably pick Joe Barry Carroll or Johnny Manziel or Darko Milicic or Brian Bosworth.

Nobody asked me, but ...

What's in a name? Orlando International Airport (MCO) says a lot. It is suing the Orlando Melbourne International Airport (MLB). The fight? Use of the word Orlando in Melbourne's name. The two airports have been negotiating for several years over Melbourne's use of Orlando in its name. MCO notes that Melbourne is 70 miles from Orlando.

What's in a name? The Hyatt Regency in Jersey City, just across the Hudson from New York, is suing the Hyatt chain. The fight? Use of the word Hyatt in the name of the Hyatt House a few hundred feet away. The Hyatt Regency, opened in 2002, claims the Jersey City Hyatt House, opened in 2017, will lead directly to a $1.3 million loss for the full-service property.

Nobody asked me, but ...

"Experts," avgeeks and general media types are drawing all sorts of fast conclusions about the Boeing 737MAX based on extremely preliminary reports about the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes. That's the equivalent of judging the 400-page Mueller Report on a 4-page summary from Attorney General William Barr.

Can we wait on both, please? I have learned that there's never a single cause for a plane crash and we all remember the litany of evidence then-FBI-director James Comey detailed in the Hillary Clinton E-mail matter before he declined to prosecute. Patience, folks, patience.

Nobody asked me, but ...

Priority Pass is testing airport takeout ordering on its app. Grab is out there. And airport food service giant HMS Host has partnered with Airport Sherpa, a deliver-to-your-gate app that operates at Baltimore-Washington International.

HMS Host thinks it can expand Airport Sherpa to 20 airports in the next year. "We're good at cooking," HMS vice president of innovation Jim Schmitz tells me. "We're not techies. We make and serve food for a living. The deliver-to-the-gate aspect is new to us," so teaming with Airport Sherpa was smarter than starting an app from scratch.

Nobody asked me, but ...

If you're a newly built hotel and you don't have handheld shower wands in your guestrooms, you've done it wrong. Even if you're a price-conscious developer and brand, you can install a handheld shower wand that doubles as a traditional shower head for just a few pennies more. Skimping on that when you're already cutting the size of your rooms, eliminating bathtubs and skimping on real work desks is just awful planning.

We're going to talk about new hotel chains from the likes of Marriott and Hilton next week, but, boy, these new operations are making a terrible decision when they eliminate in-room coffeemakers. Offering coffee in the lobby is not a substitute. It's even worse than claiming a fold-up table hanging on a wall hook is a "desk." (Looking at you, Moxy...)

Nobody asked me, but ...

Andrew Levy, one of the founders of Allegiant and the former chief financial officer of United Airlines, says he's launching a new airline. Color me disinterested. I cannot think of a single good thing to expect from an airline created by a founder of Allegiant whose forte is finance.

Speaking of United Airlines, this month it's testing a streamlined food service in business class on overnight flights from its Washington/Dulles hub. But in typically United fashion, it's using a good idea--quicker service, quieter cabins, maximizing sleep time--to test how much more it can cut from Polaris. Among the night-flight cuts being tested: eliminating the cheese course and offering only cold breakfast options.

Nobody asked me, but ...

My father was born in Cleveland. My mother was born in Brooklyn (New York, not Ohio). All four of my grandparents were born in Italy. I mean, that's not hard to remember. Yet Trump continues to misremember the "oranges" of his father? Fred Trump was born in the Bronx, not Germany, as President Trump has claimed three times. Maybe he should demand Fred Trump's long-form birth certificate just to make sure he wasn't born in Kenya or someplace like that ...

Jacob Rees-Mogg, who has emerged as the face of Brexiteers, is a made-for-Hollywood caricature of the foppish, clueless British Upper Class. He's also a traitor to the House of Mogh, the honorable Klingon house so well represented by Worf on Star Trek.

Nobody asked me, but ...

The 757-room hotel at 201 North 17th Street in Philadelphia had for years been a shabby Sheraton hotel. It got so awful that it no longer even qualified as a Sheraton so last summer it went independent as the Philadelphia 201 Hotel. But the property was sold last month and the new owners promise to spend $28 million to regain the Sheraton flag. Imagine being so awful that you have to spend $28 million just to get back to Sheraton standards.

In extending its deal with American Express, Delta Air Lines says it realized $3.4 billion from the arrangement in 2018. Delta's full-year 2018 earnings were only $5.1 billion. Give or take a billion, the numbers are similar for United, American and their credit card partners. Now do you understand why the only way to "win" the frequent flyer game these days is to master the smash-and-grab strategy of taking new credit cards for the acquisition bonus and then moving on to the next card?

Nobody asked me, but ...

People who complain about Marriott Bonvoy fall into two general categories: Travelers who have had their account screwed up in the Marriott/Starwood combination and travelers who thought Marriott would have created a rich frequent guest plan. Tenacity and determination will solve the problems of the first group. If you are in the second group, you cannot be helped because you're living in a fantasyland.

There's actually nothing wrong with Bonvoy that a little lodging competition couldn't cure. But it won't come from Hilton, InterContinental or Accor, who have no real desire to compete with Marriott in the frequency arena. That leaves Hyatt, one-sixth of the size of Marriott. It thinks you owe it more than one night's stay a week on average per year to qualify for its top-tier Globalist level.

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