2021 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.

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.