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 The Brancatelli File

joe NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT...

BY JOE BRANCATELLI

August 17, 2006 -- Nobody asked me, but…

If astronomers can't agree on whether Pluto is a planet, maybe we can cut the poor schleps at the security-screening checkpoints a break when they puzzle over what is acceptable in a carry-on. I mean, if the rocket scientists can't tell the difference between Pluto and Goofy, how can you expect the checkpoint folks to differentiate between lipstick and lip balm?

A reader tells me that she's packing salami sandwiches in her carry-on now because she uses the slices of greasy meat to keep her lips moist in-flight. If you're gonna use cold cuts as a replacement for ChapStick, allow me to recommend Molinari Finocchiona Salame. Your lips and breath will not only be scented with fennel, but this San Francisco version of the Tuscan specialty may be the best commercially made salami in America.

Nobody asked me, but…

It's creepy that the folks at Pepsi predicted the no-liquids ban in a Sierra Mist commercial that premiered during the Super Bowl. The surreal spot features D-List diva Kathy Griffith and actor/comedian Jim Gaffigan as Sierra Mist-stealing checkpoint agents. Pepsi has pulled the spot, but you can screen it at You Tube.

A little-known wrinkle of the new checkpoint rules is that gel-based insoles are now illegal to carry on or wear in shoes on the plane. I'm not sure that it makes any sense from a security standpoint, but I'll accept it if it forces Dr. Scholl's to pull those incredibly annoying "gellin' like Magellan" spots. I so want to smack all those people at the garden wedding.

Nobody asked me, but…

Am I the only one who's noticed that this is the third consecutive summer that London's Heathrow Airport has melted down? I know the causes are unrelated--first the British Airways job action, the Gate Gourmet strike last year, then last week's security issues--but you know what they say: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, fly through Frankfurt.

Here are your tax dollars at work: Marathon Airport in the Florida Keys scored $750,000 in federal transportation funds to subsidize new flights from Delta and Continental airlines. But now the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has told Marathon that it has no screeners available to staff the airport's checkpoints.

Nobody asked me, but…

I'm honored that Marketwatch.com thinks I'm one of five people who should go pro as bloggers. I'm humbled to be on any list with Tom Friedman of The New York Times and Ken Auletta of The New Yorker. But I already write four columns a week. The Joe we need to hear more from is Times business-travel columnist Joe Sharkey, who, I'm happy to note, has just launched the Joe Sharkey at Large blog.

Why do I get the feeling that the cable-news networks are thrilled to be off knotty and complicated stories like Iraq, Lebanon and airline security and back on the voyeuristic JonBenet Ramsey beat?

Nobody asked me, but…

The quickest way to replenish your personal-grooming needs on the road is to use the Pharmacy Finder function that has been a part of the Cyberconcierge since I launched it in May, 2002. And you people thought I was just obsessive when I ferreted out links like that…

GoToMyPC.com, which allows you to remotely access a PC via the Web, was quick off the mark to exploit last week's carry-on contretemps. It's offering a 60-day free trial to all comers. Can't beat free, right?

Nobody asked me, but…

If you have any doubt that most of the men who run the Big Six carriers are insensitive clods who don't give a damn about passengers or employees, I give you this: An early version of a Northwest Airlines booklet called Preparing for a Financial Setback urged rank-and-filers about to be laid off not to be "shy about pulling something you like out of the trash." It also suggested that soon-to-be-ex-employees shop at thrift stores and buy their auto parts from junkyards. And it offered cheap dating tips like going "for a walk along the beach or in the woods."

Trust me when I tell you that checking a bag that you once carried on is not a solution. "Mishandled" baggage has jumped about 20 percent in the last year as passenger traffic has picked up. How do you think the obscenely understaffed Big Six carriers are going to fare now that checked-baggage numbers spiked 20-50 percent in the last week? I guess they'll suggest we shop for replacements at the Unclaimed Baggage Center.

Nobody asked me, but…

I'm not surprised if you've been haunted by the music on that brilliant and touching Liberty Mutual commercial. The song is called "Half Acre" by Hem and it's the best music about the loneliness of life on the road since Carole King's "So Far Away." The lyrics will make you cry.

I hated breaking my "no more gear on the road" policy last month and getting an MP3 player. But I admit that I'm enjoying gathering up all the covers of a particular song in one place. I'm up to 50 consecutive versions of Jobim's "Waters of March" and I've found eight great covers of "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go," the best love song Dylan ever wrote.

Nobody asked me, but…

Do you think JPMorgan Chase is feeling the pressure of its deep financial commitment to United Airlines and its decision to accept miles rather than cash for credit-card processing holdbacks? I just got a solicitation--okay, I just got seven of them--from Chase offering me 20,000 Mileage Plus miles if I just take another United affinity card. Chase will even waive the fee for the first year. Sounds desperate to me…

MilePort is the best widget I've ever seen for managing frequent-travel programs. And it's free. It was developed and is being promoted by Tim Winship of FrequentFlier.com and Harris Turner, who has a long history in loyalty marketing.

Nobody asked me, but…

A lot of the future of business travel is tied up in technology and the Web. If you want a look at the future, surf on over to FlightStats.com. It's got the kind of flight-tracking, flight-status and comparative airport and airline reporting that we could only dream about even a year or two ago.

Come to think of it, maybe I should start a blog. One of the astronomers' new definition of planets is "roundness" and apparently I'm so round that I qualify as my own planet. I could be the first planet with its own blog…

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