The Brancatelli File



May 4, 2000 -- I know you come to this little portion of Cyberspace in search of my brilliant insight, my snappy wit, my laser-focused logic and my unstinting willingness to throw my mind, body and spirit against the monolithic blue meanies who make our lives on the road a living purgatory.

I am disappointed to report that this week, at least, I am speechless. I simply do not know what to make of these news items. They all seem so bizarre, so outrageous and so mind-numbingly inexplicable that I have nothing so say.

In fact, I'll just pass these disparate bits information on to you and let you draw your own conclusions. So, without further ado and without editorial comment, and, as Rod Serling used to say in a totally different Twilight Zone, submitted for your approval…

Lufthansa has threatened to ban complimentary copies of the Financial Times from its aircraft because airline executives are infuriated that the newspaper has obtained internal Lufthansa documents and reported negative information about the German carrier. A day after the newspaper's new German edition reported the airline planned to sell investments to meet its profit targets for 2000, Lufthansa chief executive Juergen Weber imposed a one-day ban on in-flight distribution of the paper. The airline then wrote to the Financial Times and threatened to ban it forever if it published any more confidential information.

Swedish maids are seeking protection from male hotel guests who become "over excited" after watching televised pornography. The Swedish Hotel Workers Federation wants maids to be given alarms and be allowed to work in pairs. "We have to dry off sticky television screens, clean stained sheets and pick up used tissues," maids told a Swedish newspaper. Sweden's Equality Minister, Margareta Winberg, said Swedish politicians and civil servants should boycott hotels where pornography is available on in-room television systems. But Prime Minister Goran Persson told a newspaper that he had other priorities on the road. "It's more important that the hotel room is quiet, clean and comfortable than whether it has television channels showing porn," he said.

British Airways is paying a passenger about $150,000 in compensation after her luggage apparently was stolen at London's Heathrow Airport. Victoria Beckham flew from Miami to London and transferred to a Manchester flight last month, but the bags never arrived at Manchester. The three lost cases contained clothes, Beckham's work and personal items. "We are extremely sorry for the inconvenience caused and have apologized to her," a BA spokeswoman told a British newspaper. "A few items are believed to have gone missing at Heathrow." Why the solicitude and gigantic settlement? Victoria Beckham is better known as "Posh" Spice of the Spice Girls.

Nine maids at a Holiday Inn Express in Minneapolis were tired of low wages and what they perceived to be discriminatory working conditions and exploitation due to their Mexican nationality. Several of them led a unionization drive and won a vote last August. In October, however, the hotel fired the maids and general manager Kevin Koenig reported them as illegal aliens to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The INS arrested and detained eight of the nine. But the local branch of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In December, the hotel signed a union contract. In January, while denying any wrongdoing, the hotel agreed to pay the nine former maids a total of $72,000. Late last month, the INS agreed to grant seven of the maids a two-year reprieve from deportation and to allow them to work in the United States.

Southwest spends 23 cents per passenger on food, according to statistics on airline spending for the fourth quarter of 1999. The airline, which only offers beverages and snack food on its flights, ranks lowest of the 10 major U.S. carriers. On average, the major airlines pay $4.81 per passenger on food. American spends the most ($8.44 per passenger), followed by United ($7.79), Continental ($5.23), Northwest ($4.97), Delta ($4.16), TWA and Alaska ($3.66 each), US Airways ($3.05) and America West ($1.47). Midwest Express, which wins raves for the food served on its limited route network, spent $9.89 a passenger.

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination on Monday ordered Northwest to pay more than $200,000 to a former baggage handler who claims she was fired after cooperating in a sexual-harassment investigation. The woman, a 15-year Northwest employee, suffered a disabling back injury at Logan Airport in 1994. She said she was fired in 1995 after giving written testimony to state investigators in support of a sexual-harassment claim brought by the family of a Northwest employee who was murdered in 1992. The family settled its claim against Northwest in 1995; the murder has yet to be solved.

This column originally appeared at

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