The Brancatelli File for 2002

joe December 19: Where Business Travelers Live
Business travelers are using the Internet to deliver an ultimatum to the travel industry: Heal thyself and treat us fairly or we will stay away until you die. The Internet is ours. This is where we live now and this is how we fight back.

December 12: Lush Life
This is about once upon a time, when people thought business travel was the lush life, men wanted to dress like Sinatra or Ellington, women wanted violets for their furs and American popular music was, well, popular. This is about hotels and nightclubs.

December 5: Burning Down the House (Again)
I asked these questions last December and now I ask them again: Who is served by the Big Six airlines? Does a business model that profits no one and offends everyone deserve to survive? Of course not. It's time to burn down the airline house and start again.

November 21: For History's Sake: Stupid Airline Tricks
The Big Six has made so many strategic and tactical blunders, so many stupid pricing decisions, so many offensive service decisions, that it is nearly impossible to keep track of them all. But this was a week quite unlike any other. The stupidity was so rampant that it must be documented. So, for history's sake, a look at the week that was. And, remember, it's only Thursday. God knows what these miscreants will do tomorrow.

November 14: A Tale of Two $10 Phone Calls
Using a public phone--a hotel-room guest phone or a pay phone anywhere on the planet--is the financial equivalent of putting a loaded gun to your head. Use your mobile phone. Everywhere on the road. All the time. Once you get your calling plan in order, your mobile phone is your first, best option for calling on the road. And I've got salient mobile-phone tips.

November 7: A Stark and Simple Proposition on Terrorism
You may not have heard about it because the mainstream media was obsessed with Winona Ryder's trial and Princess Di's tattletale butler, but the U.S. State Department has issued another worldwide travel warning. And, like it or not, coping with terrorism is a stark and simple proposition: Travel and expose yourself to a certain amount of danger. Or, stay at home and guarantee that the terrorists win the war.

October 31: The Contrarian's Guide to Frequent-Travel Programs
No, I don't think anyone's going to "lose" their miles in a major-airline bankruptcy. But anyone who thinks frequent-travel plans are the closest business travelers get to a free lunch is equally mistaken. There's very little free about the plans today and a contrarian view of their purposes and practices is extremely useful.

October 24: Want Less Holiday Travel Stress? Don't Read This!
My new best tip for less stressful holiday travel? Avoid reading about how to reduce your stress. That said, here are my other tips to reduce your stress on the road this holiday season, which, as if by magic, starts next week.

October 17: Aloha: The Good Airline
In February, 2000, the same week JetBlue launched its inaugural flights, Aloha Airlines crossed its own final frontier and began flying from Hawaii to the mainland. Two and a half years later, JetBlue has justifiably garnered all the publicity and comparative bushels of profit. Yet Aloha is now wowing people with good service and fair pricing on its growing network of mainland routes.

October 10: Voices From the Front
No one writes with as much wit and conviction about life on the road as you do. Your observations are devastating in their clarity and witty beyond my feeble palette of words. So this week I shut my yap and let you write. Here are your voices from the front lines of business travel.

October 3: Little Airline Lies and Petty Deceptions
Sometimes it is the petty deceits that reveal the big picture and the larger truths. And when you stare into the heart of darkness that is the Big Six airlines, you can see how their little fibs are greasing the skids for their fast-track ride onto the scrap heap of history. So would it surprise you to learn that the airlines lie about their taxes, too? Read about the lies they told about taxes this week before Congress.

September 26: Another Bailout? No. Nationalization? Why Not?
Airlines went to Congress this week and asked for another $4 billion in taxpayer funds. But when the market closed Thursday, the Big Six had a combined market capitalization of only $3.4 billion. So here's a better idea: Use the $4 billion to nationalize the Big Six, pay off the shareholders and then put our best minds to work on a salvage project.

September 12: The Truth About Airline Security
It has been a year and a day now and the shock, if not the pain and the grief, is gone. The talking heads have talked. The politicians have postured. The so-called experts have babbled and blustered. The airlines and the airports have lied and backtracked. Now, we need to cut through the drivel and talk some sense about airline security.

September 5: Educating Glenn
An oil-industry lifer walks into an airport, meets the caretaker of the nation's second-largest airline and, three weeks later, he's running the joint. That's no joke. That's United Airlines. We've got some suggestions for the newbie as he takes charge of what increasingly looks like the Titanic of the Big Six carriers.

August 30: US Airways Tries Suicide
Nearly 72 hours after US Airways put a metaphoric gun to its corporate head Tuesday with a package of fare and frequent-flyer moves that can only be described as suicidal, we head off for a Labor Day weekend that may very well define the face of American commercial aviation for decades to come. Read what could happen this Labor Day weekend.

August 22: Continental Says It's All Your Fault
Continental chief Gordon Bethune thinks it's all your fault that Continental is hemorrhaging cash and skidding toward bankruptcy. You're not flying enough or paying enough and he's not going to let you get away with it anymore. Read all about his declaration of economic war on travelers.

August 15: The Gospel According to American Airlines
The gods who run American Airlines came down from the mountaintop on Tuesday and proclaimed their latest commandments for the nation's largest airline, all of their competitors, and, of course, all of us humble peons who are unlucky enough to be frequent flyers. Read what it all means and be prepared to comply or perish.

August 8: America Must Travel on September 11
This, I believe, is true: America wants to travel on September 11. It doesn't want to go anywhere in particular. It just wants to go somewhere. Our Manifest Destiny demands that we travel. To prove to ourselves that we all still dream the American Dream even after the nightmare of September 11, 2001.

August 1: No Excuses. Join an Airline Club.
If you live your life on the road, then joining one or more airline club networks is the single best investment you can make for your sanity. Nothing pays for itself faster, especially now that we all spend so much more time at the airport.

July 25: Let's Buy Ourselves an Airline
The nation's Big Six airlines are so badly managed that their combined market capitalization has deteriorated to about $5.5 billion. So how 'bout us disgruntled frequent flyers pool our nickels and dimes, sell our miles for some investment capital and then buy out the airlines that make our lives so miserable?

July 18: I'm Speechless! (Well, Almost...)
Maybe it's the heat. Or the sheer volume of random airline acts of callousness. Or maybe it's just the accumulated outrage. But this week I'm speechless, unable to form the words--and find the well-chosen adjectives--to fully explain what the airlines have been doing since last we met in Cyberspace. So here are this week's bits of airline news and you supply your own adjectives of disgust and revulsion.

July 11: Everything's Alright at Airport Security
Ten months after September 11 changed their lives, average Americans want more airport security, not less. They don't want looser deadlines and self-serving bean counting. They figure they're paying for the extra security with their time and their tax dollars and they want more action, not less.

June 27: Die, Amtrak, Die!
It is time to shut Amtrak down. Scrap the whole system. Write off the $100 billion or so we've invested since Amtrak was founded in haste and panic in 1971 and admit we've made an awful mistake. Read how to fix the nation's railroad system.

June 20: Stop Thinking. It Annoys the Airlines.
One airline chief executives now says U.S. carriers are "a stupid industry led by stupid people." I'll go further: Major mainline carriers are dominated by officious martinets who don't give a damn about their customers. You annoy them. They hate you because you won't do what they tell you to do, you won't pay what they tell you to pay and you have the gall to question their pronouncements about the state of life on the road.

June 13: The Cowards and Traitors Among Us
The ACLU filed suit last week against several airlines for denying seats to innocent travelers after September 11. But the airlines often discriminated at the behest of other passengers. I tell you now what you know in your own heart: Those frequent flyers are bigots. They are cowards and traitors. They are American Taliban. And they must be stopped.

June 6: In Search of High-Tech Simplicity
Sometime during the last five years, travel technology stopped being about which cool new tools we could take along on the road and started being about what unnecessary gadgets we could leave behind. The question: How do we simplify and stay productive?

May 30: Summer Travel Survival Strategies
This will be a summer like no other in American business-travel history. Here are my best strategies for making this summer travel season a little less crazed and a lot more productive.

May 23: I Try to Be Understanding...
An airline-executive friend of mine took me to task over lunch recently and demanded that I be more understanding of the airlines. I went right from lunch to the airport and I was doing great at being more understanding until I tried to get a boarding pass. Read all about my odyssey and the understanding airline.

May 16: One-Sentence Travel Solutions
Allow me to suggest a few one-sentence solutions for what's ailing our air-transport system. Nothing too complicated, you understand. Just simple, commonsense suggestions to make things better. Sentences so simple even that the simpletons who run the nation's major carriers can understand them.

May 9: Airfare Camelot
For one, brief shining moment in 1992, business travelers had Airfare Camelot: Walk-up prices were reduced as much as 50 percent and there were just four fare categories. I believe business travelers will not return to the seats of the major airlines, and most of those airlines will not survive, unless the industry quickly adopts some form of the rational pricing we briefly experienced a decade ago. (By the way, this week's column is also a sing-along.)

May 2: Fairy-Tale Fares
The major airlines are headed for fiscal and operational collapse thanks to yield management and the chaotic airline pricing system. Here's how the system has failed, infuriating customers and depressing profitable demand.

April 25: The Ten Commandments of Travel Buying
The absurdities of business travel require that my Ten Commandments of Travel Buying be reconsidered, rewritten and road-tested on a regular basis. Here's what I think works right now.

April 18: The Civil War of the Airlines
The nation's carriers are at economic war with each other. And we business travelers have a vital stake in this civil war. The future of how, how often--and even if--we will fly on business hangs in the balance.

April 11: Creative Complaining 101
Are complaint letters to airlines, hotels or car-rental firms actually worth the effort? The answer is an unequivocal "Yes!" Here's a crash course--consider it Creative Complaining 101--on getting satisfaction on the road.

April 4: The Truth About Business Travel
Nobody knows the troubles we've seen on the road except us and that's why business travelers are the most misunderstood people on the planet. So let me redress the balance and codify some truths about the lives we lead.

March 28: Hotels Still Don't Get It
Most hotel general managers have yet to fully accept that business travelers do business in their rooms, so no hotel room on the planet actually delivers the goods for frequent flyers. Submitted for your approval: my preliminary list of what hotels need to do better.

March 21: The Enemy of My Enemy Is My Friend
The mainline airlines have eliminated the base commission they pay to travel agents and they now expect many agents to work for free. How does this affect business travelers? Deprived of any revenue from the tickets they sell us, travel agents will have to boost the service fees they charge. That's a fare increase in disguise and I think it's time business travelers and travel agents get together to fight the common enemy.

March 14: March Madness
It's March Madness time, but I am no fan of big-time college basketball. I'd rather watch the pros. Which is why I despise watching the Big Six carriers. After billions of losses, and with no chance of profit any time soon, this week they raised fares and increased capacity. That is amateurish. That is childish. That is March Madness.

February 28: It Doesn't Ad Up
The major airlines are never so puerile and never so despised by business travelers as when they make their pitiful attempts to tell us that they understand our pain. Which explains why their advertising campaigns look and sound so patently phony.

February 21: Good Riddance to Bad Security Policy
The Transportation Security Administration has abolished special security lines for elite frequent flyers and premium-class travelers. Good riddance to bad security policy. The government, which now runs airport security, must not discriminate on the grounds of race, religion, sex, ethnic origin--or your personal business relationship with a privately owned airline.

February 14: My Funny Valentines
This is Valentine's Day and, by the columnist's code of currency, I have to start tossing Valentines around. But travel industry treats us like a commodity. You don't send Valentines to people who treat you like soybean futures. Luckily, there are some things that touch my heart: the extra legroom in coach on American; good, cheap hotels; instant-rental programs; British Airways' premium classes; and more.

February 7: They Are Their Records
It was the acerbic football coach Bill Parcells who once said, "You are your record." His point? That the self-deceptive chimera engulfing bad teams meant nothing. That excuses means nothing. Like bad football teams, the Big Six are their records. And the record of 2001 earnings shows that the only airlines in North America to make money last year were one-class, low-fare, non-traditional carriers.

January 31: Surviving Security Now
If you're looking to cancel a business trip, then the current security-screening process is a convenient and extremely persuasive excuse. On any given day, for any particular flight, the security regimen at U.S. airports is every awful adjective you can think of. There's only one way to deal with security now. Grin, bear it, survive and take every damned precaution and use every damned shortcut you can devise.

January 24: Liar, Liar, Industry on Fire
No industry lies quite like the travel industry. From the modestly misleading hotel practice of putting pictures of their nicest rooms in brochures and then making believe that it is the standard offering to the airline practice of scheduling flights they know cannot run on time, travel is built on a foundation of lies. Lies about pricing, lies about service, lies about standards and even lies about lying. Lies are now so permanently ingrained, there are even corporate standards for how and when to do it.

January 10: The Business Traveler's Guide to the Euro
Ten days into the conversion, there remain a few kinks in the euro system. Still, sooner rather than later, and no later than March 1, the euro will be the only legal tender in the 12 Eurozone countries. Here's what you need to know about the Euro--and your stocks of legacy currency--if you're headed to Europe in the next few months.

January 3: Sixty Hours in Euroland
The political pooh-bahs who unleashed the euro on New Year's Day as the unified legal tender of 12 of the 15 European Community nations have spared no expense and left no superlative unspoken in their attempt to convince the world that all went swimmingly on "E-Day." But take it from me, here on the ground in the heart of Rome: The transition to the euro has gone smoothly because virtually no one is using it yet.

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