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 The Brancatelli File

joe NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT...

BY JOE BRANCATELLI

February 16, 2006 -- Nobody asked me, but...

The bureaucrats at the Transportation Security Administration have temporarily admitted defeat on Secure Flight, which was designed to be the replacement for CAPPS II. When is it going to dawn on them that these massive, invasive, computerized passenger screening systems are not only offensive, they also don't work?

I can live without the sycophants issuing blanket statements of support for an amorphous Registered Traveler program. Without specifics about what a security-bypass program would cost--both in dollars and in privacy--and what benefits it would offer in return, anyone voicing "support" is either looking for publicity or has a vested financial interest.

Nobody asked me, but...

You should run for cover whenever security analysts start upgrading the ratings of Big Six stock, which some have done in recent days. They keep looking for reasons to justify a "buy" recommendation and they always end up looking like fools--and burning credulous investors.

If you feel you have to invest in the travel business, try the major hotel chains. They have a sweet gig just now: They don't really own or even manage hotels anymore; they just collect franchise fees for the use of their brands, frequent-stay plans and reservation systems. That should work for a couple of more years.

Nobody asked me, but...

Every laptop should be required to come with at least four USB ports. And, come to think about it, shouldn't someone invent an AC power adapter that connects to a USB port? That would eliminate the need for us to buy a new adapter every time we switch laptops.

You get what you deserve if you store your music on your iPod. Haven't you lost enough documents over the years to ever trust your Beatles, Byrd, Miles or Madonna to a hard drive?

Nobody asked me, but...

Just like Fast Frankie Lorenzo forced us to change bankruptcy laws back in the day, this current crop of airline managers will eventually force us to change the rules so that Chapter 11 is once again a last resort, not a management tool for lazy executives.

Here are my two suggestions: If an airline--or any company--files for Chapter 11, the top executives who pull the trigger must resign. And firms in bankruptcy shouldn't be allowed to have executive-retention bonus programs, something Delta Air Lines is now proposing. The only way to make bankruptcy a last resort again is to ensure that the executives who use it feel some of the pain that they impose on their hapless employees.

Nobody asked me, but...

Two people have committed suicide on airplanes so far this year. Suicide may be the ultimate act of despair, but doing it on a plane just seems so much worse, if that's even possible.

Sir Freddie Laker died last week. In the history of things, his airlines didn't last long. But the entire concept of low-fare travel for the masses can largely be traced to his fertile brain and his willingness to fight the powers that were.

Nobody asked me, but...

Here's the difference between televised Olympic coverage in Europe, from where I've just returned, and NBC's efforts: The television networks in Europe actually cover events. I saw entire curling matches and hockey games. I even saw huge chunks of the biathalon. Except for figure skating, what, exactly, does NBC cover for more than a few minutes at a time?

I happened to be in Italy during the first weekend of the Olympics. To say that the Italians weren't engaged doesn't quite cover it. Even the state-sponsored network covering the games, Rai Due, felt compelled to switch to soccer coverage on Sunday afternoon.

Nobody asked me, but...

I think a pilot's strike at either Northwest or Delta is inevitable. And since it is always Northwest that takes a strike, my money is on Northwest.

Something's wrong at Spirit Airlines. The ex-US Airways clique that runs the privately held airline can claim that four consecutive months of traffic declines "met expectations" as they rework the carrier's route network. But airlines cutting capacity shouldn't be suffering from declining load factors, too. Watch this one carefully...

Nobody asked me, but...

The Diners Club card is sinking fast. But don't expect the arrogant idiots at Citigroup to say they are sorry. And a lot of the pain is self-inflicted. Most business travelers I speak to say they might have held on to their cards after the recent frequent-flyer cuts if only Diners Club hadn't abruptly abandoned the two-cycle payment policy.

After spending six weeks in Europe and using my GSM mobile phone everywhere, I'm convinced that GSM could be a lot more popular in the United States if only Cingular and T-Mobile weren't so stupid and incompetent. Even by the standards of phone companies and airlines, the two U.S. GSM providers are absurdly sloppy and customer-repulsive.

Nobody asked me, but...

Are we sure the guy that Cheney shot didn't have weapons of mass destruction? I mean, I'm just asking...

Every time I flip on the tube and see the Saddam Hussein trial, I wonder if anyone has sat the old fool down and explained to him that he really doesn't run Iraq anymore. Of course, very few copies of How to Be an Evil Dictator have a chapter entitled "When to Realize That the Gig is Up."

Nobody asked me, but...

It's really hard to worry about global warming when you've come home to three feet of snow on your lawn.

How many days 'til pitchers and catchers?

Copyright 1993-2006 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.