By Joe Brancatelli
June 30, 2011 -- You know what really takes it out of me? Not the flights and the road trips. Not the snowstorms and the volcanoes and the strikes and computer outages. Not six months of travel that leaves me dragging my ass into the Fourth of July weekend.

It's not even the bad food, the lousy airline seats, the tired hotel lobbies or the high-mileage rental cars that smell of cigarette smoke.

It's the attitude. The travel industry is appallingly clueless. Worse, it has no idea that it is appallingly clueless. Its collective obliviousness is wearing on and frustrating for those of us who live our lives on the road. Worst of all, it reminds us why they are so awful at what they do.

I mean, surf to Portfolio.com and read my column about the Delta Air Lines flap over its alliance with Saudi Arabian Airlines. Regardless of what you think of the details or incredibly tangled web of Middle East politics, what can you make of the fact that the world's second-largest airline doesn't understand that "We're only following orders" isn't an answer you give in a civilized society?

The people at Delta aren't stupid. But the 30th time you hear one of them say the moral equivalent of "We're only following orders," you go beyond cringing. You realize that they are oblivious. And when you read one of them whining that "the idea that we are banning Jews from our flights is offensive to a lot of us at Delta," you get that they don't pay attention to anything but themselves.

Because, you know, that's what this whole issue is about: Not hurting Delta's feelings.

Or what can you make of that tireless and tiresome promoter Richard Branson, whose airline is on the verge of a strike? Is he worried about his airline's reputation? Concerned about his pilots? Or, heaven forfend, his passengers?

Of course not. Branson, who admits he doesn't actually pay attention to Virgin Atlantic, wants you to know that he thinks his offer to the carrier's pilots is eminently fair. Branson wants you to know that he's personally "looked at the facts" and determined Virgin has made the "best offer it can."

Well, okay, then, Dickie boy. As long as you have looked at the facts, no reason for your airline's pilots to question anything. I mean, as long as you have looked at the facts and deemed the offer "best," what could possibly stop the pilots from signing immediately on the bottom line?

Besides, now that you've personally looked at the facts and determined that your underlings have made the best offer, no reason for any of us to worry about anything. You know, no reason to think your carrier won't meltdown as it did during last December's storm at London/Heathrow. You know, when your airline abandoned passengers. phones weren't answered for days on end and customers were left flightless and unaware of when or how they would get home.

Or how about the automatons at InterContinental Hotels? The global lodging giant hates that there's a former franchise in Kabul that still operates under the Inter-Continental name. So when the hotel was attacked this week and dozens died, the powers that be at InterContinental knew what they had to do.

They put out a statement. About themselves.

"Following extensive media coverage, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) would like to confirm that the hotel Inter-continental in Kabul is not part of IHG and has not been since 1980. In light of this fact, we respectfully request that future reports, where possible, make this clear. IHG, listed on the London Stock Exchange, is the world's largest hotel company with 4,400 hotels in over 100 countries.

"Our thoughts at this time are with all of the people affected by this tragedy."

Do you believe for a single moment that anyone at InterContinental gives a damn about "the people affected by this tragedy?" If you do, I ask you to imagine the meeting some boss took before issuing the statement.

Listen, you guys, we really need the world to know that we're thinking of all those poor Afghans who've been killed.

Well, how 'bout we put out a statement expressing our thoughts?

Oh, that's a good idea. Just lead with some boilerplate demanding that the world remember that the hotel in Kabul isn't ours. Just something fast so that our stock value won't be hurt. But don't let it overshadow the fact that we're thinking of all those people affected by the tragedy.

Yeah, that's how it probably went down over at IHG this week.

Or how about those wonderfully, eternally clueless boobs over at US Airways? I mean, they're always a reliable font of lunatic self-absorption.

Been watching the news this week? See all that rioting in Athens as the Greek people tried to figure out whether they were going to default or swallow a couple of hundred bitter pills that will set their society back a few decades? Regardless of which side of the issue you're on, you have to feel for the Greeks. The strikers, the cops, the politicians, the entire society.

But what did our good friends at clueless, old US Airways do this week? Even as Greece's entire aviation infrastructure shut down, US Airways decided it would be a good time to announce a code-sharing alliance with Aegean Airlines.

'Cause, you know, that's what the world wanted to talk about this week. The big US Airways-Aegean code-share. There was plenty of time to discuss it between the rocks and the riots and the tear gas canisters in Athens.

I'm going to go take a shower now and wash the travel industry off me. I suggest you do the same.

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.