The Brancatelli File



November 2, 2000 -- With Election Day only hours away, I have finally come to my conclusion: I want you to vote for me for Airline Czar.

I don't make this request lightly. I was hoping I didn't have to throw my hat into this ring. Firstly, winter's coming and I'm bald and taking my hat off and throwing it anywhere makes no sense at all. Secondly, I was sort of hoping one of the candidates would say something about the parlous state of business travel and the rapacious ways of the airline industry.

During this whole, long, dreary campaign, did Al Gore say one word about the Gore Commission, the stupid talking-head society he chaired that made our airport life miserable under the guise of enhanced security? He did not. Did George W. Bush explain why he did nothing to repeal the Wright Amendment, that bizarre federal boondoggle that all but strangles Love Field in Dallas? He did not. Besides, those guys don't even fly commercial.

Did Ralph Nader make the case for curbing the abusive power of the airline oligarchy? I don't know, but I'm pretty sure I'm not comfortable supporting a guy who willingly flies coach and drives around in subcompact rental cars. Did Pat Buchanan say anything about the terrible conditions at airports around the nation? Maybe, but since his platform was written in German, I had a little trouble getting the gist of it all.

So it all falls to me, Citizen Brancatelli. The major and the minor party candidates have ignored business travel, an issue that impacts the life of every American, so I feel compelled to offer myself. I'd like your support for the office of Airline Czar. If you entrust me with this mythic office, I'll make you proud.

I've never cheated on my wife, been convicted of a felony, failed to salute the flag, raised funds at a Buddhist temple, had a famous politician father or approved an execution. I know how to pronounce "subliminal" and have never confused the cost of human and animal prescription drugs. I don't take PAC money and have no ties to the industry over which I hope to take complete power.

I have traveled the length and breadth of this nation. I have landed on a frozen lake in Maine. I have landed in the fog in San Francisco. I've flown from Billings, Montana, the Magic City. I have stood outside the front gate of the airport in Greensboro, North Carolina, waiting for the terminal to open so I could get to my flight. I've eaten the American Airlines burrito and clutched a plastic Southwest boarding card. I've been delayed by United and treated like trash by Northwest. I once heckled Continental chief executive Gordon Bethune at an annual meeting in Houston. Wait, now that I think about it, it was Rudy Tomjanovich, coach of the Houston Rockets. I was exaggerating there, but you get the point.

I want to fight for you, the business traveler. I envision a nation where everyone--Democrats and Republicans, pilots and flight attendants, business and leisure travelers--comes together to work out the problems of first-class upgrades, outrageous flight delays and all the other great issues of the day.

My campaign has the benefit of being mercifully short--remember, by next Thursday's column, all these Election Day references will be passé--and my campaign is grounded in great and fresh ideas.

For example, I have a secret plan to lower airfares. Vote for me for Airline Czar and I guarantee that no domestic seat will cost more than $99 at any time. I'll make sure you never have to pay more than $149 one-way for any international flight. And since flights to London often cost less than that already, my secret airfare plan calls for all flights to England to be free. After all, the Brits owe us. We saved their bacon in two World Wars and we permit the BBC to sell all their sitcoms and period dramas to the U.S. television networks. In return, I guarantee you that all flights to London will be free.

I am against raiding the Aviation Trust Fund. I'll put it in an impregnable lockbox to ensure that future generation of travelers continue to pay immensely high air taxes into the Fund. Keeping the Aviation Trust Fund in the lockbox will guarantee that it will pump up the massive federal surplus.

I'm against a tax on frequent-flyer miles. You worked for those miles. They belong to you. Read my electrons: no taxes on frequent-flyer miles.

I don't want to leave a single business traveler behind. I want the airlines to wait for you when your connecting flight is late. And if you miss your connecting flight, I'll give you a voucher to fly another airline. It's important that no one gets left behind in this great nation.

And then there's the issue of carry-on bags. It's the "third rail" of business travel. People have urged me to keep mum. But I'm not afraid to lead. If you carry on bags now, I promise you'll be able to continue to carry on bags for as long as you travel. A promise made will be a promise kept when I'm Airline Czar. But younger business travelers should be allowed to withdraw a portion of their carry-on bag allowance and send those bags by overnight courier.

In conclusion, I'm asking for your support as Airline Czar. Other candidates trust the airlines. I trust you.

This column originally appeared at

Copyright 1993-2004 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.