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.
DECEMBER 16: ALL ALONG THE AIRLINE WATCHTOWER
You're undoubtedly hearing about jingle bells, red-nosed reindeers and chestnuts roasting on open fires. Me? I'm playing Dylan's All Along the Watchtower
a lot. Why? The jokers and thieves who run airlines are working overtime this holiday season to make our lives difficult. Please read these items and protect yourself accordingly in the days and weeks ahead.
DECEMBER 2: CHOOSING POORLY ON TRAVEL RULES
A new set of Coronavirus-inflected travel rules dropped this week and, as the Grail Knight from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
might have said: Biden chose ... poorly. Could the new restrictions have been worse? Absolutely. But every decision made this week was a choice that reflects poorly on how we will manage travel during the Omicron era of the pandemic.
NOVEMBER 18: PLENTY TO BE THANKFUL FOR
Things to be thankful for on the road? You and I actually have plenty to be thankful for. I know because you have told me so over the years. Even during this dreadful pandemic, which never seems to end, we really are thankful.
NOVEMBER 11: REMEMBRANCES OF AIR SHUTTLES PAST
American Airlines is killing the LaGuardia-Boston end of the old Eastern Shuttle. That's too bad since the Shuttle was the best, easiest thing business travelers ever experienced.
NOVEMBER 5: THE ROAD AHEAD IS DIFFICULT AND DIFFERENT
Things ahead will be difficult--and different. The latest on airline meltdowns, airport club access, vaccine passes and testing, changes at O'Hare and much, much more. This will definitely not be your father's end-of-the-year travel period.
OCTOBER 28: THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT
With surprisingly little fanfare, American Airlines this week announced the end of flying-based elite levels. It is literally the final nail in the coffin of "frequent flyer" programs that reward you for, you know, flying. We're just skin sacks in seats now. Fly or don't fly, American genuinely does not care anymore.
OCTOBER 21: NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT ...
What's worth dissing this week? Major airlines want you to believe they have mandated vaccines for employees. The months ahead on the road will be rocky and expensive. Getting passports is a lengthy ordeal. Water in bathrooms is now a "perk" at one airport. Plus The Beatles, airport clubs, ancient pizza delivery, old stuff in space, Neil Young's hotel note and much more. And, of course, a sharknado of snark.
OCTOBER 14: AIRLINE LIES AND SOCIAL DAMAGE
Southwest Airlines' pronouncements as its network melted down last weekend have repercussions far beyond the transportation system or our lives on the road. Those stupid lies tore another hole in the American social fabric. A country already groaning under the weight of a seemingly endless pandemic is much worse for it.
OCTOBER 7: THE AIRLINE ART OF INSANITY
Everything airlines do seems dumb, anti-competitive and, all too often, passenger-repugnant. In other words, another week of life on the road. Share it with me, won't you? We consider the egregious JetBlue-American alliance; the Tata family regaining woebegone Air India; Southwest's claims that publishing its fares and schedules is a crime; and, of course, the endless being and nothingness of Alitalia.
SEPTEMBER 30: AIRLINE MADNESS
We may all be descending into madness, cursed to live the same stupid travel scenarios over and over and over again because airline executives make the same stupid decisions over and over and over again. Whether it's new fines for long tarmac holds or crazy airline start-ups with no future, we have seen it all before because the airlines keep making the same, dumb calls.
SEPTEMBER 16: EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ...
... about travel this week: American Airlines pulls ahead in the race to the bottom; two 9/11 tales you do want to read; U.S. international travelers are staying very close to home; Italy digitizes some Covid travel paperwork; and a "heroic" hotelier fades away after criticizing his own.
SEPTEMBER 9: SO FAR AWAY: THE TAPESTRY OF 9/11
Twenty years on, we're so far away from our feelings about 9/11 that we've forgotten that we've forgotten to deal with our grief, our outrage and the unfixable hole it ripped in our lives.
SEPTEMBER 2: SOME THINGS I MEANT TO MENTION
As we break for a three-day holiday, some notable developments: A hotelier talks about how awful it is to be a hotel guest in 2021. A new hotel at JFK is a crapshoot for travelers hoping for better airport lodgings. What to do with your old bags. How to get a good deal on car-service transfers. And what happens when the MyPillow guy has to sell his private jet?
AUGUST 19: EIGHT THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT TRAVEL NOW
This has not been the summer travel season we expected. The wrong people are flying, the right people are stuck on the ground and airlines and hotels have been ripping us off, both as travelers and taxpayers. What to make of it all? Here are eight thoughts on what to know--and how to protect yourself right now.
AUGUST 12: THREE TALES OF SUMMER TRAVEL
It's okay to admit this is not the summer travel season we expected. But here are three tales of summer travel to keep you entertained and intrigued: Why is Breeze, David Neeleman's new airline, reviving $39 one-way fares just 11 weeks into its life? The Sheraton on Kauai's lovely Hanalei Bay gets another costly remake--and another new name--in an attempt to erase the Sheraton stench. Here's what we're learning about how the Delta variant is depressing travel.
AUGUST 5: LGA-ADJACENT FLUSHING IS THE NEW HONG KONG
Flushing, just two miles from New York's LaGuardia Airport, is the closest thing to Hong Kong that I've ever experienced. And given how the Chinese Communist Party seems intent on destroying the Hong Kong we once knew and loved, Flushing may be more like the Hong Kong we remember than the Hong Kong we will find when we can travel there again. What to know, where to stay--and, especially, what to eat!
JULY 29: CANADA MINTS AND UBER PRICES
The first weekend of August is America's official vacation time. So let's slow down just a bit and consider some statistics that really do impact our lives on the road. Like: Hotel occupancy is booming again, Uber prices are skyrocketing and some airports lost more than 70% of their traffic last year. And, oh, yes, some thoughts about vacations and Canada Mints.
JULY 22: THE KETCHUP (ER, CATCH-UP) COLUMN
Travel news is moving so fast that it's hard to keep track. So after a brief ketchup aside, let's catch up: A fourth iteration of hopeless, helpless Alitalia launches in the fall. Plaza Premium will operate the Virgin Atlantic airport Clubhouses. We may have lost Hong Kong forever. The DOT wants you to know "fares" have decreased even though fares no longer represent the price of flying.
JULY 15: NO CARD TO RULE THEM ALL
Thanks to the huge hike in annual fees and reduced lounge privileges, American Express Platinum is no longer the go-to card for travelers searching for airport club access. Chase Sapphire Reserve is cheaper and a better earnings card, but there are huge holes in its club network. So what's a club-dependent flyer to do? I have some thoughts. They may help you.
JULY 8: THIS IS NOT OVER
This hateful Coronavirus pandemic, with all of the death and all of the illness, is not done. Fueled by a ferocious Delta variant, the Coronavirus is surging again here in America. Huge swathes of the world are shutting back down. I wouldn't say the worst is yet to come, but dangerous things do lie ahead. It's foolish to think otherwise. Plan accordingly.
JULY 1: IF IT'S THURSDAY, IT MUST BE A CRAZY EUROPE COLUMN
When the vaccines arrived, I'd have bet dollars to donuts that London would be the first place we could travel in Europe. Turns out I was a real doughnut. For all sorts of reasons, Britain may be the last place to open now. But the rest of the continent is opening, slowly, with lots of rules and conflicting regulations. I try to explain it all.
JUNE 24: EVERYTHING'S NORMAL (ROTTEN) ON THE ROAD
You wanted "normal" again. You craved it, begged for it, told anyone who would listen that all you wanted after 15 months of pandemic was to get back to "normal." You got it: Things are rotten on the road again. I mean, rotten like it's 2019 normal. Feel better now? Here is what's happening on the road now--and you will not like it. But that's normal.
JUNE 17: NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT ...
What's new? Frequent flyer programs go from "unregulated lotteries" to three-card monte games inside a Ponzi scheme. You can now renew your Global Entry credentials via Zoom interviews. How to check the rules for visits to Europe. McCarran Airport disappears. And lots more, although a little less snark than usual.
JUNE 10: BANKING ON AIRLINE CLUBS
Chase and Capital One have decided they need to open airport lounges to compete with the American Express network of Centurion Lounges, an odd turn of events considering Amex never wanted to be in the airport club game. All the bank maneuvers and the latest news on airline lounges right now.
JUNE 3: SUPERSONIC STUPIDITY
Five years after United made a clusterfark of Polaris, its late-to-the-party-still-not-fully-installed business class, it announces an order for supersonic jets. I mention this June madness as the perfect backdrop to the odd confluence of masks, booze and boorish passenger behavior we're experiencing. Luckily, I think we can fix the latter. Stick with me as June busts out all over.
MAY 27: SKY PIRATES
A Soviet-style, tin-pot dictator of a country that has always been a vassal state of whatever empire Russia was fronting at the moment has engaged in a shocking act of travel piracy. I assume few of you have even heard of Alexander Lukashenko, the snarling, smarmy, mustachioed villain of today's piece. But he has made international travel much more risky and much more dangerous for travelers everywhere.
MAY 20: HOW TO GET BACK ON THE ROAD
We're free to travel again, but there are new rules. Rule 1: Business travelers don't rule the roost since we have been much slower to return than leisure flyers. The other rules? They all have to do with managing expectations, preparing paperwork and devices and, frankly, examining minor travel details we once took for granted.
MAY 13: BUSINESS TRAVELERS AS LONE RANGERS
Old line: Who was that masked man? New answer: Business travelers. After the new CDC guidance, travelers and the unvaccinated--the vax deniers, the vaccine hesitant, the Coronavirus-is-a-hoax loons and the kids who've only been eligible for a shot since Thursday--now are in the same metaphoric boat. We all have to wear masks. That seems like a harsh penalty for us travelers.
MAY 6: NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT ...
I can answer your questions, but sometimes the answer is no. No, I have no idea what the EU is doing with border openings. No, I don't think airlines or hotels "learned" anything during the pandemic. All this and more stats, analysis, news--and, certainly, snark.
APRIL 29: RISKY BUSINESS
Travel in 2021 is a simple proposition: How much risk are you willing to assume? As someone who has lived 30 years in the immediate kill zone of a nuclear plant in order to live in a beautiful place, I know a little about risk. So here's what I'm thinking about the risk of flying, staying in hotels and taking a cruise--and I offer a region-by-region assessment of what global travel might be like this year.
APRIL 22: THIS IS NOT NORMAL
For reasons best known to themselves, the travel media is racing to declare things normal. Allow me to let you in on a secret: This is not normal. It's not even one of those reduced-expectation "new" normals. We are nowhere near normal on the road--and business travelers would know that if we could get on the road.
APRIL 15: THE WEEK FLYING DIED IN AMERICA
It all came apart this time last year. From Sunday, April 12, through Saturday, April 18, only 669,718 people took a commercial flight. That was just 4% of 2019 volume. Have we learned anything in the subsequent year? It's sometimes hard to see the metaphoric forest for the Coronavirus trees. But we shall give it a whirl.
APRIL 8: SCENES FROM A NEW YORK HOTEL STAY
Between bouts of runaway financial growth and wholesale physical reconstruction, the last two decades have been pretty rough on New York City. Nine-11 changed the skyline and killed thousands. The Great Recession emptied office buildings and bank accounts. Hurricane Sandy swept away part of the subway and the landscape. Now the pandemic. Some snapshots of post-Covid New York. You may not recognize the city.
APRIL 1: WHEN APRIL FOOL'S SEEMS LIKE REAL LIFE
As we head into the Easter/Passover holiday weekend, some things to know: The anti-vaccine-passport putzes don't understand pandemics or history or the Constitution; David Neeleman's Breeze Airways should launch within weeks; Delta gives a clinic on how not to manage public policy or public relations; and an April Fool's travel joke I concocted nearly 20 years ago has come true.
MARCH 25: ALL LEISURE ALL THE TIME
U.S. airlines have decided there will be no international travel and no domestic business travel for most of the rest of 2021. Their solution: all leisure travel all the time. They are launching vacation routes that bypass hubs, enticing golfers with Myrtle Beach runs and even adding service to Alaska, the Caribbean and Flyover Country.
MARCH 18: WHAT IS IN YOUR WALLET? AND WHY?
Before you hit the road again, maybe do a card check and consider what credit cards you are carrying and why. And if you're looking to maximize your return in the months ahead, here are several cards worth considering, mostly for the quick-hit acquisition bonuses.
MARCH 11: TIME TO THINK ABOUT TRAVEL AGAIN
I survived a year of lockdown by reading An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution
. When you read it, you look at everything from an economic point of view. So this last year I have hung my worldview on this belief: Too many places we love can't afford another year of lockdown no matter how bad the virus is. The economic pressure will force travel to reopen, countries to welcome visitors again, cities to begin returning to something like normal. And 2021 is the year.
MARCH 4: ADVENTURES IN VACCINELAND
I want to travel again. And travel safely. Last year I was convinced testing was the key that would unlock our lives on the road. That didn't happen. In fact, I haven't even had a test yet. But vaccines do seem to be the ticket to travel. All you gotta do is navigate the maze to get one. My tale is appropriately bizarre.
FEBRUARY 25: BROKEN
Intellectually, I know we're closer to the end of this than the beginning. I've even booked flights! But, emotionally, the lousy Smarch weather is affecting my mood, especially after seeing the depressing news from Asia-Pacific carriers; the problem with the Boeing 777 engines; a strange legal case against Alaska Airlines; and the collapse of New York's hotel industry. The details leave you feeling broken.
FEBRUARY 18: THE MOST REVILED FREQUENT FLYER IN AMERICA
It's been a week of existential travel decisions. Shall we consider the serious flights or the trivial one? The crisis or the callous? The news or the personality? Or, you know, should we mash it all together, throw up our hands, shrug our shoulders and blame frequent flyer Ted Cruz for everything?
FEBRUARY 11: THIS IS WHAT WE'VE COME TO ...
This was the week that was: We gave airlines $75 billion and now they're whining we might demand domestic pre-testing; Marriott is buying Lawrence Welk resorts; left and right wings scream at the thought of domestic travel bans; and, oh, yeah, things are horrible all over. Lots more, too.
FEBRUARY 4: WE DON'T NEED ALL THESE STINKING HEALTH APPS
We're going to need a "digital health passport" to get back on the road. I explain what they do--and it's obviously a good idea. But with so many competing apps already in the space, I want to go all Alfonso Bedoya on them and scream: "Digital health passport? I don't need no stinking digital health passport!"
JANUARY 28: NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT ...
I finally get to go to an airport again. In April. With no flights. And a 550-mile roundtrip. Just to get my Covid vaccine. And you say the Supreme Being has no sense of humor! All this plus news about airline CEOs turned evangelists, plenty of snark, music and other tales of not being on the road.
JANUARY 21: TRAVEL IS POLITICAL, SO WE COVER IT
You start talking travel and faster than some government bureaucrat can promulgate a new regulation, you are talking about politics. This should not surprise you. Travel is intensely political and the two are, in fact, indivisible. You can't talk about one without the other. We will cover Biden as we covered Trump and Obama and Bush. If it's good for travel, we'll support it. If it's bad, we'll oppose it.
JANUARY 14: NORWEGIAN'S ONE-WAY TICKET TO PALOOKAVILLE
Norwegian Air Shuttle is now officially out of the transatlantic travel market and will try to regroup as a regional Nordic carrier. But Norwegian coulda been a contender. It actually had (one good) class. But too many mistakes, bad luck and a global pandemic means a one-way ticket to Palookaville.
JANUARY 7: HOW TO THINK ABOUT TRAVEL IN 2021
Well, 2021 hasn't started off exactly as we'd hoped. But this will be a better year for travel. Here are the things that you to need think about, how to address the changes in airlines and hotels and how to adjust to the massive reorganization of everything from restaurant dining to airports.