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IN 2013, THE SUPER BOWL LAY IN RUINS ...
By Joe Brancatelli
January 31, 2013 -- The Almighty has been good to me in many ways, but no less so than this: I am almost always in the air, incommunicado en route to another continent, while the Super Bowl is contested.
I'm not against football per se. It just doesn't engage me. And the Super Bowl is almost always a bore. In your heart of hearts, you know that's true. It's part of the reason we pay so much attention to the commercials that debut during the broadcast. The game itself is so dull that we actually find ourselves watching the commercials.
Or let me put it to you in frequent flying terms you can understand: On Super Bowl Sunday 1986, I was on a Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt and the pilot broke in somewhere over the North Atlantic with the latest score: Bears 44, New England 3. To me, every Super Bowl is emotionally 44-3.
But I'm no fool. I know most of you care about the game, have rituals surrounding it and plan this weekend around the contest. In other words, you hardly have time for this column.
So I'll cover several issues fast and you can go back to your Super Bowl weekend planning. Or as I say: Praise the Lord and find me a long-haul flight for Super Bowl Sunday.
DON'T MENTION THE PHYSICAL KEYBOARD...
I turned off Wednesday's live stream of the introduction of BlackBerry 10 because Thorsten Heins, the tall, lanky German chief executive of the smartphone maker formerly known as RIM, reminded me of John Cleese playing a German trying to be casual.
I won't waste your time talking about the Z10 (pronounced Zed 10), the company's Hail Mary pass into the already crowded field of virtual-keyboard smartphones. Although our friend David Rowell didn't think all that much of it, others liked it. A lot. And if I was in the market for a virtual-keyboard device, I'd give the Z10 a hard look.
But as a longtime BlackBerry user, I want an external keyboard. And I assume most of the other 80 million of us who still carry BlackBerry devices do so for the physical keyboard. If we had wanted a virtual keyboard, we'd have defected to the iPhone or the Samsung Galaxy SIII months ago.
Heins and his crew barely mentioned the Q10, the real-keyboard device that will run Blackberry 10. Unlike all of the attention lavished on the Z10, we heard nothing about when the Q10 will be released, how much it will cost, what carriers will offer it, etc. All we know is that it will have a 3.1-inch screen.
I get that BlackBerry needs to be in the virtual-keyboard space because that is the future of mobile devices. But to ignore the 80 million of us who have ignored the slings and arrows of our iPhone- and Samsung-carrying colleagues and friends and stayed loyal to Blackberry seems to be a cultural and marketing mistake. And I'm not sure they'll get away with it.
NOBODY GOT THE SPANISH INQUISITION...
Ray LaHood finally made official what we'd known for months: He won't continue as Transportation Secretary. I happen to think LaHood has been terrific and the agency has pushed through any number of fabulous consumer-protection measures during his DOT stewardship.
I think he'll best be remembered for his swift moves to ban long tarmac holds. He did in 120 days with regulations what the foolish "passenger rights" advocates had wasted years trying to get passed into law. LaHood got it: Hit the airlines where it mattered--gigantic fines if they held aircraft on tarmacs for more than three hours--and they'd instantly change how they did business.
It has worked brilliantly. The year 2012 will go down as one of the timeliest in commercial aviation history, long tarmac holds have disappeared and cancellations didn't rise. All the gloom and doom predicted by raging egotists like United chief executive Jeff Smisek and the idiot airline analysts never came to pass. Why? Because LaHood understood financial realities. It would be cheaper for airlines to adjust how they operate than to willy-nilly cancel thousands of flights in fits of pique.
But being wrong is apparently its own reward. For months after the new DOT regulations went into effect, analysts churned our dire warnings about how banning long tarmac holds would paralyze the system. After a while, the naysayers reminded me of the folks waiting patiently in the courtroom at the end of the Spanish Inquisition sketch. They kept waiting for an event that never arrived.
REMARKABLE PLANE, THE DREAMLINER. BEAUTIFUL BATTERIES...
No, fellow travelers, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is not like the parrot in the Pet Shop sketch. It isn't dead, deceased, bleedin' demised, bereft of life or an ex-airliner. But it sure has trouble--and does seem grounded for an extended period.
Consider this: Regulatory agencies have said the Dreamliner won't fly again until Boeing can prove that those troublesome lithium-ion batteries are safe. Just as it's hard to prove a negative, it's hard to prove the lack of danger. It could take months. If Boeing gives up on lithium-ion and switches to less-volatile nickel-cadmium batteries, it will take months of engineering to rework the 787's systems and get them certified.
Either way, I think we can fairly conclude that the lack of movement on the part of the 50 Dreamliners currently in airline fleets is not due to the aircraft being tired and shagged out after a long flight.
Meanwhile, my Official Super Bowl Prediction: I think the '86 Bears are gonna win that game...
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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 © 2013 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2013 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.