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By Joe Brancatelli
May 12, 2011 -- In a week when a commuter-airline pilot refused to fly two imans even though they'd been checked three separate times by TSA screeners, you know anything can happen.
And it has. A punk pilot pulling rank on two passengers who happened to be guilty of flying while Muslim really was the least of what went on this week.
We're talking real Twilight Zone stuff. "Submitted for your approval," as Rod Serling used to say. And be careful if your next seatmate is a sweaty fellow who looks curiously like a young William Shatner…
We'd Now Like to Welcome Flyers in … Oh, the Hell With It!
American Airlines has changed its boarding procedures again. Complete details on who gets to board when are listed here. Bottom line: Being in Group 1 does not mean you get on the plane first. The first-class and business-class passengers get on before you. American AAdvantage elite flyers and some Oneworld elite customers get on before you. Uniformed military personnel get to board before Group 1 travelers. As American's handy-dandy chart shows, Group 1 flyers are actually boarded as the third group. If you're unlucky enough to be in Group 4, I think you board on the 12th of Never.
Hey, Look, the Rich Kid Brought His Ball Back to the Schoolyard!
Back in September, I suggested Hertz chief executive Mark Frissora "was the kind of kid who used to threaten to take his ball and go home if he didn't get to be the quarterback." Why? He got pissy when Dollar Thrifty shareholders turned down his $1.27 billion offer to buy the No. 4 car-rental firm.
Just before the Dollar Thrifty vote, Frissora called the Hertz offer the firm's "best and final" and then made this astonishing statement: "Failure to approve the Hertz agreement could leave Dollar Thrifty without any transaction, a sub-optimal outcome for its shareholders."
When Dollar Thrifty shareholders called his bluff, Frissora took his cash ball and walked away. Dollar Thrifty then began negotiating with Avis Budget. But that hasn't gone too well since the two companies can't figure out how four rental firms under one corporate roof could pass regulatory muster.
Guess who showed up on the schoolyard this week? Frissora. And his new pitch for Dollar Thrifty--his "best and final" offer from last year apparently having been rendered "inoperable"--is $2.24 billion in cash and stock.
I admit I might have been wrong about Frissora. Now he seems more like the kid who never got picked even when he owned a new ball.
My Newest Excuse: It's the Business Travel That Made Me Fat
Well, blow me over with a really sturdy feather. Business travel makes you fat. So say the august folks at the august Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
Among self-identified business travelers, obesity was lowest among travelers who were on the road between one and six nights a month. The more people traveled, the more they had a tendency to be obese, the medical journal said.
If you have another health hang-up, the story is the same: The more you travel, the less healthy you are. So read the whole study here and pick your excuse.
Get Out the Velcro
Once upon a time--okay, November of 2008--I wrote a column about Velcro hotels. You know, properties that change brands and flags so often that the signs might as well be fastened to the building with hook-and-loop tape.
We now have another contender for king of the Velcro hotels. The 341-room property in downtown Orlando located on a triangle created by Interstate 4, Orange Avenue and South Ivanhoe Boulevard is now on its fifth name and fourth brand in seven years.
It was built in 1985 and operated as a Radisson until 2005. It became an independent hotel called the Ivanhoe Plaza for about a year. Then it was a Sheraton from 2006 until the end of 2009. In 2010 and part of this year, it was a Sonesta. A few days ago, it became the DoubleTree Orlando Downtown.
Nice Work If You Can Get It
Hal Rosenbluth made a ton of money building Rosenbluth Travel, his family's travel agency, and then sold the whole Rosenbluth kit and travel kaboodle to American Express a few years ago. Along the way, he fashioned himself as a hero of downtrodden rust-belt communities and co-wrote a couple of pop psychology books about management-employee relations.
But maybe the most telling tale of Rosenbluth is what happened after he sold his next business, a chain of walk-in health clinics, to Walgreens, the pharmacy-store giant.
According to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Walgreens paid $1.2 million to shuttle Rosenbluth around in a private jet in 2009 and 2010. Even though Walgreens told the SEC that "the company's policy is not to pay for any personal use of chartered aircraft" and other top executives flew on United Airlines, Rosenbluth had his own deal.
As president of a Walgreens division, Rosenbluth did go private. Better yet, Walgreens paid more than $800,000 of the $1.2 million to companies that Rosenbluth had set up to own and operate the private jet. In other words, Walgreens paid Rosenbluth so Rosenbluth could fly on his own private jet.
Nice work if you can get it. Rosenbluth apparently couldn't get it anymore, though. He retired in April.
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ABOUT JOE BRANCATELLI Joe Brancatelli is a publication consultant, which means that he helps media companies start, fix and reposition newspapers, magazines and Web sites. He's also the former executive editor of Frequent Flyer and has been a consultant to or columnist for more business-travel and leisure-travel publishing operations than he can remember. He started his career as a business journalist and created JoeSentMe in the dark days after 9/11 while he was stranded in a hotel room in San Francisco. He lives on the Hudson River in the tourist town of Cold Spring.
THE FINE PRINT All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.
This column is Copyright © 2011 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2011 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.