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 The Brancatelli File for 1993

joe December 30: WILL TRAVELERS PLAY IT SAFE IN 1994?
Sad but true: All too much of 1994's travel landscape is likely to be in the less-than-steady hands of the world's politicians. "What's hot for 1994 are the destinations where people feel they'll be safe," says the president of one major American tour operator. "Travelers are justifiably concerned for their physical safety and they've learned that political instability rarely makes for a safe or secure travel environment."

December 15: YOUR QUESTIONS, MY ANSWERS
What are your rights when you're bumped from a flight against your will? Since when do car-rental agencies check your driving records? How do you find the most timely flights? Your questions, my answers.

November, 1993: TURNING A MECHANIC INTO A CLOSER
How can you turn a gaggle of airline pilots, flight attendants and reservations agents into a small army of crack salespeople prepared to sell the gospel of Kiwi International Airlines? You can't, says Kiwi regional sales manager Paul G. Clements. You just do the best you can because you've got no other choice.

November, 1993: ON A WING AND A SALE
The weirdest thing of all about Kiwi International, the start-up airline? Everybody sells. Not just the sales department of seven people. Not just all of the airline's 490 pilots, mechanics, flight attendants, reservations agents and corporate executives. But also guys who are waiting to be hired as a Kiwi pilot, and Rudy Borusso, a retiree who has made 552 sales calls without a dime in compensation or a penny of expenses. Call it the Kiwi cult of selling.

November 10: HIDDEN CITIES, NOTICEABLE SAVINGS
While the rest of the national economy putters along with a negligible inflation rate, the airfares most frequently purchased by business flyers are skyrocketing. That explains why many business travelers try to reduce their fares by slipping through loopholes in the airlines' complex pricing structure: the hidden-city fare.

November 3: FORGET THE RESTRICTIONS. LUG YOUR LAPTOP.
Earlier this year, the nation's airlines began to limit the use of laptops and other electronic devices during a flight. The airlines claimed using laptops in certain in-flight circumstances was a safety risk. So to schlep or not to schlep? That is the question many business travelers now face when they need to use a personal computer on the road.

October 27: THE LONG TRAVAILS OF A SHORT-HAUL FLYER
How much are business travelers willing to pay to fly 407 miles? And what should business travelers expect in the way of service on a flight for which they've just paid 68 cents a mile? Obscure as these questions may seem, they go right to the heart of the uneasy relationship between America's unhappy army of business travelers and the nation's financially battered airline industry.

October 20: WHY YOU'RE NOT LOYAL TO HOTEL LOYALTY PROGRAMS
Hoteliers have spent a decade trying to build their proprietary frequent stay programs into loyalty-building machines similar to airline frequent flyer programs. All most have gotten for their efforts are huge marketing bills and precious little loyalty that can be traced to frequent stay plans. "Business travelers couldn't care less about frequent stay programs," said Charles E. Brownfield III, vice president of sales and marketing of Inter-Continental Hotels. "We dropped ours in the late 1980s because it was clear that the only way to motivate business travelers to change hotels was by giving them frequent flyer miles."

October 13: EUROPE, CHEAPER, IF YOU BOOK FAST
Business travelers planning fall and winter forays to Europe are discovering a peculiar twist on the major airlines' pricing and promotion patterns. Fares for business travel to Europe have declined substantially, albeit within a narrow window of opportunity. Lavish frequent-flyer program incentives, however, have virtually disappeared.

October 6: THE PHONE MAZE
Let's share a sad secret about business travel: The marketers who sell travel services all too often have no idea about the life we live on the road. Consider, for instance, a basic like long-distance calling and a new service from MCI and American Express. They'd like you to make long-distance calls using the MCI network and they'd like you to charge those calls to your Amex card. The new service requires business travelers to punch in 36 digits and a personal identification number, which entails as many as six more digits. Are these guys kidding?

October 1: THE BELL ON YOUR HOTEL PHONE MAY BE A CASH REGISTER
The phone in your hotel room may look harmless, but it's a money machine in disguise. If you're not careful, a hotel-room phone can suck the life out of your expense account faster than you can dial 911. How do you beat the hotels at their own phone game? It's not easy--and never be smug enough to think you're immune from a rip-off just because you carry a telephone calling card or have a toll-free access code from your long-distance company.

September 29: THE TRICKERY BEHIND LOW CAR RENTAL RATES
The announcement by Hertz on Tuesday that it is raising rates about 12 percent in 29 major cities doesn't alter the fact that rental prices are awfully low. Dollar Rent A Car, for instance, recently advertised weekly rentals of a four-door midsize car for less than $20 a day. Unfortunately, this is bad news. Competitive pressures have kept daily rates so low for so long that the car rental industry now generates profit only from a mind-numbing array of ups, extras, surprise fees and hidden charges.

September 22: HOTEL AND MOTEL LINES BLUR
When you travel on business, do you stay in a hotel or a motel? Sorry, that's the wrong answer. In fairness, that's a trick question because it has been years since business travelers had so stark and simple a choice. The days when there were just two clearly defined lodging options--the traditional, full-service hotel or the humble, roadside motel--are long gone.

September 15: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL AIRLINES HAVE SPOKEN
Welcome to Oz. This week, the great and powerful airlines have declared a fare war for fall travel. But business travelers should pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. The wondrous fares he has pulled out of his bag--up to 45 percent off the cost of domestic travel--are available only to leisure travelers.

September 8: HOW TO MAXIMIZE YOUR FREQUENT FLYER AWARDS
Frequent flyer awards are as close as business travelers ever get to a free lunch. But the elegance and sophistication of the meal is up to you. Manage your programs wisely and you'll be feasting. Get sloppy and you'll end up with table scraps. Blinded by the lure of free travel, too many business travelers lose sight of one basic fact: Frequent flyer programs are a business strategy, not an act of airline noblesse oblige.

September 1: PAY COACH, FLY FIRST
It is the oldest complaint in the business-travel book: Since executive travelers usually fly with little or no advance notice, they inevitably pay outrageously inflated full-coach fares and end up squeezed into the middle seat between two vacationing little old ladies from Pasadena. That needn't be the case. Hoping to break the near monopoly of Big Three carriers--American, United and Delta now combine to carry about 60 percent of the nation's traffic--four smaller airlines gladly upgrade executive travelers to first class when they pay the full coach fare.

August 15: FACED WITH A STACKED DECK? THEN SHUFFLE
Working from the assumption that salespeople are "price inelastic"--so desperate to make a sale that youíll pay any price for a ticket--airlines have stacked the desk with all sorts of rules, regulations and loopholes that keep you paying top dollar. Happily, there are some easy-to-master tricks you can use to even the odds.

August 2: WANT A BETTER DEAL ON TRAVEL? JUST ASK.
On an average weekday night, every other hotel room in America is empty. Thatís great news for business travelers looking to cut a bargain on a hotel room because low occupancy makes the nationís innkeepers amenable to making a deal. After all, getting you to book their room at 30, 40 or even 50 percent off the tariff printed on their rate card is better than leaving the room empty.

January 1: THE REAL HAWAII? YOU TELL ME.
Aloha from Hawaii, the only place in the world where life imitates a tourist's fantasy. Almost everything about the 50th State, including the fact that Hawaii is a state at all, sometimes seems like a contrivance for the benefit of the tourists.

Copyright © 1993-2007 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.