2020 Archive
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 is also the former executive editor of Frequent Flyer magazine and has been a consultant to or columnist for more business-travel and leisure-travel publishing operations than he can remember. He began his career as a business reporter and created JoeSentMe.com in the dark days after 9/11 while stranded in a hotel room in San Francisco. He lives on the Hudson River in Cold Spring, New York.

MAY 24: THE AGONY OF DEFEAT, THE CALMNESS OF CERTITUDE
No pitch has yet been thrown in the 2020 baseball season, but I know the Indians are five games out. The Indians are always five games out. That's because my team, the woebegone Cleveland Indians, have not won a World Series since Dewey beat Truman. But I've learned something: rooting for a perennial loser is a lot like business travel. The certitude of the screw-up is almost calming.

MAY 14: PANDEMIC PERSPECTIVE
So we're back to 9/11, are we? No, frankly, it's worse than that. As horrific as 9/11 was, it was one day. We're looking at a 9/11 death toll every day atop the 85,000 who have already fallen. And the airline industry as currently constituted cannot survive. Without sugarcoating anything, here's some perspective on what is coming on the road and in our lives.

MAY 10: WHAT'S NEW? ROCKING STANDARDS
Linda Ronstadt wasn't the first rock diva to cover the standards, but her chart success with a trilogy of albums opened the door to a flood of imitators. And those copies were even less creatively successful than Ronstadt's records. Rockers just aren't great covering the Great American Songbook.

MAY 7: NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT ...
Some stray thoughts about what we should tell airlines as they prepare to ask for another bailout; when practicing social distancing will allow us to turn pro; how airlines found the perfect passengers; the state of hotel award charts; and a few revolutionary theories about the "future" of travel. All this and an extra added helping of snark.

MAY 3: THE WORLD WE LEFT BEHIND
When travel, business and otherwise, ended abruptly in early March and most of us went into lockdown, we forgot one thing: the world. The world we left behind has changed dramatically in our absence--for better and for worse. Yes, it is emptier, with major cities looking abandoned and forlorn. But it is cleaner, too, with much less pollution and smog. I've collected a series of remarkable films and photos of both phenomena.

APRIL 30: THE MASKED VIEW FROM THE BOTTOM
It's a good news, bad news kind of week. The good news: We've bottomed out and both airline traffic and hotel occupancy are growing albeit from our new, shriveled base. Bad news: Masks will be the order of the day as most U.S. airlines now demand passengers wear them starting next week.

APRIL 26: BINGING WITH BRANCATELLI
Without shame, I tell you that I am a huge consumer of television. Lucky for you, this omnivore mentality is really useful now. I know where all the good stuff--and far too much of the bad stuff--is buried. Let me tip you to five shows you should screen now that you have so much time to bask in TV's warm, glowing, warming glow.

APRIL 23: BAILING ON THE BAILOUT
The feds this week started sending our taxpayer dollars--well, our great-grandchildren's taxpayer dollars--to the airlines. Weirdly, we're paying to operate flights that no one is using. With only around 100,000 flyers a day, we have to stop paying airlines to run flights we don't need.

APRIL 16: THE NEW CASE AGAINST FREQUENCY PLANS
Airlines and hotels will screw us when this pandemic eases and we get back on the road. There will be no frequent travel award bargains, no useful new benefits and certainly no short-term deals. Here's my thinking on why programs will get worse and why now is the time to dump travel credit cards.

APRIL 9: NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM
The Easter/Passover holiday is usually when travelers gather with their families and plan summer holidays or end-of-year vacations. But this year that can't happen because no one know when we'll fly again. But as you sit down with your family, virtually or in person, tell them this: Next year in Jerusalem. Or Maui. Or Mumbai. Somehow, some way, we will do it. Next year in Jerusalem.

APRIL 5: BUSINESS TRAVEL DUMPSTER DIVING
The world is a terrible and terrifying place just now, but the business traveler's equivalent of a dumpster dive brings us a rare moment of ... well ... not joy so much as a brief instant of happy kismet. Amenity kit eye masks can be used as face masks.

APRIL 2: NO DAY BUT TODAY
Yesterday's gone. There is no tomorrow. What happened even last year on the road is ancient history. Nothing the talking heads predict about the future of travel is credible. All we have is today. And today we have no choice but to ride out this crisis.

MARCH 22: KEEP CALM AND LISTEN ON
Music helps me keep calm and soldier on. After every one of those bizarre and surreal daily Coronavirus briefings from the White House, I find myself turning to one of these albums for emotional stability and tranquility.

MARCH 19: MAKING TERMS FOR AN AIRLINE BAILOUT
Not a dollar. Not a dime. Not a penny. So now that I've gotten that out of my system, let's admit what we all know: The airlines are going to get a bailout even if they don't deserve one. They key will be making terms--and terms appropriate for this crisis. Here are my suggestions.

MARCH 17: A JAZZ SAMPLER: MUSIC FOR ADULTS
I was raised on rock and roll and became a chronological adult just as Joni Mitchell explained what it was like to be raised on robbery. Jazz came later. If you never crossed the bridge from rock (and robbery) to jazz, here are a few discs to get you started.

MARCH 15: THE ROAD GETS ROCKY FROM HERE
I've pulled together an emergency briefing that focuses on what we'll find on the road in the days ahead. At least as far as we can see at this moment. The road next week will be rocky. And then it'll get worse.

MARCH 12: NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT ...
A special Coronavirus edition with some chilling thoughts for the future of flying, the bizarre nature of modern hotel-building, the botched Europe travel ban and much, much more. Plus some snark and my official song for social separation.

MARCH 8: DIVAS ON DVD
I have no answers for our diva infatuation, but I do have some thoughts about flicks featuring their work. And now that we have some down time to catch up with things that aren't flying and business travel, maybe you'd like to feed your obsession, too.

MARCH 6: SEVEN DISCOUNT STRATEGIES IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS
Facing an existential crisis, the travel industry is reacting exactly to form. It cowers in fear, refuses to fight for or promote its business and starts counting the days until it can ask for government bailouts. What's this got to do with you, a bargain-hunting traveler looking for deals in the time of Coronavirus? Just this: You'll have to ferret out the bargains on your own. Here are seven tips for doing it.

FEBRUARY 27: THE COUNTERPOINT TO MORTALITY IS MOBILITY
I've lost track of the number of "new normals" we've been required to accommodate since 9/11, but this travel-in-the-time-of-Coronavirus stuff is nauseating. I refuse to stop traveling because of a virus. If you're elderly or have pre-existing conditions, yes, do reconsider your travels. But for the rest of us? It's absurd.

FEBRUARY 20: TOURISTS LOVE THE LIBERTIES. TOO BAD.
Tourists always destroy what they love about a place, of course. And the arrival of large-scale tourism will destroy the small-town, small-scale charm of The Liberties, a quaint Dublin neighborhood that suddenly has new hotels, pricey restaurants and the undeniable whiff of gentrification. Go before developers fill every empty lot with "mixed-use" complexes boasting all the trappings of sanitized, globalized, ersatz urbanity.

FEBRUARY 6: LAST FLIGHT FROM SHANGHAI
A blended Chinese-American family escapes from Shanghai on the last flight out. How and why they did it--and the mysterious men with hardhats and sledgehammers who showed up at their doors--make for a gripping tale about panic and the Coronavirus.

JANUARY 30: AMSTERDAM IS MORE THAN SCHIPHOL. HONEST.
Business travelers generally don't pay much attention to Amsterdam. We fly into Schiphol Airport, do our connecting business and move on to the next flight. Maybe we never get into Amsterdam itself and that's our loss. Amsterdam just works even as it wrestles with an existential branding problem.

JANUARY 23: THE FARES WE'RE PAYING, THE SEATS WE NEED
You're not crazy. Premium fares are skyrocketing. Plus, we don't have enough seats to Tel Aviv, British Airways is ripping us off for its awful business class and we face the existential question of turning ground transportation over to provably unethical firms like Uber. And if this sounds like four separate columns, you're right. But remember: Unlike the impeachment boys, I don't get days to make my case. I yield back ...

JANUARY 16: LISBON IS PERFECT. SORRY ABOUT THE AIRPORT.
Lisbon is everything that the glossy travel magazines and starry-eyed travel bloggers say it is. Warm, inexpensive, charming with great food and wine. You want to go. You should go. But the airport is so awful now that you might actually want to stay away.

JANUARY 9: NINE DAYS, FIVE AIRPORTS, SEVEN LESSONS
Nine days into the new year and I've already been through five airports. But that's given me time to think about the crash (Ukraine Flight 752); the cash (evil genius Willie Walsh retires young and rich); the trash (why did my hotel room have three types of garbage cans?); and to consider the overkill of business class pods, the rickety handles on rolling bags and much more.

JANUARY 5: NOT A HAPPY NEW YEAR ON THE ROAD
Happy New Year! But happy new year? Not so much on the road since we last spoke before Christmas. All over the world, there have been new and dangerous developments that you should consider before getting back on the road for the New Year. Allow me to bring you up-to-date on the major concerns. And sorry for all the terrible news ...

JANUARY 2: MY LONG AND WINDING ROAD WITH ROCK AND ROLL
When I digitized all my music I realized how few rock and roll albums from my youth still mattered to me. But these classics are still in my regular rotation and I carry them when I travel, too.