2023 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.

DECEMBER 30: SUBMITTED FOR YOUR APPROVAL (AGAIN & AGAIN)
The Twilight Zone end-of-the-year marathon is now airing on the SyFy network. Even in these 24/7 streaming times, The Twilight Zone marathon brings comfort. And, boy, do we need comfort in these very odd times. And I promise, I won't write about the episodes we all know. I'll tell you things about episodes you might have missed.

DECEMBER 24: 'TWAS THE COLUMN BEFORE CHRISTMAS
Let's discuss Christmas tales, tales of modern Christmas carols and other travel-themed holiday items. Why can't we fly to Bedford Falls? Why are the Brits obsessed with a Christmas-themed Number One song? My choice for best contemporary Christmas carol. How Christmas past and present is celebrated around the world. Enjoy, my friends, because next week it's back to our humdrum lives on the road.

DECEMBER 17: TIPS ON TIPPING
What part of tipping don't you understand? Money talks, more money talks louder and it talks loudest to the underpaid travel-industry workers who can make our lives on the road easier, more comfortable and more productive. Remember: Consider a tip a means to your end, not payoff for "good" service rendered.

DECEMBER 10: SEVEN THINGS I LEARNED OVERSEAS THIS YEAR
I've traveled more internationally this year than domestically and I have a notebook full of news, facts, details and pithy commentary. Today, however, let me offer just seven observations from the other side: There's a way to "beat" Euronet ATMs; there are good (free) VPNs; how to ship stuff home cheap(ish); the world's worst airline; Brexit makes a mess of everything; the pandemic flying slump is over; and a small miracle at CDG.

DECEMBER 3: JUST WHAT WE DIDN'T NEED
Alaska Airlines says it wants to acquire Hawaiian Airlines for $1.9 billion. But why do we need another airline combination? Every time we allow a merger or an acquisition, airfares rise, competition declines, service deteriorates and innovation stops. No good can come of this deal, either.

NOVEMBER 22: A BRIDGE TOO FAR ON THE TERRORISM WATCH
An out-of-control automobile--a 2022 Bentley, to be precise--was traveling at high speeds on the U.S. side of the Rainbow Bridge near Niagara Falls. The Canada-bound vehicle hit a curb, careened high in the air, then crashed and exploded. Terrorism or accident? It vexed U.S. and Canadian authorities for hours on the day before Thanksgiving. Thankfully, it wasn't terrorism, although Fox News erroneously reported that it was. Here's how we covered the event in real time.

NOVEMBER 12: LET'S TALK TURKEY: LIFE ON THE ROAD NOW
Important on the road right now: The impending government shutdown will make Thanksgiving travel a nightmare. Why end-of-the-year business class deals have disappeared. The passport mess is actually getting better. Symbols of the times and a case to put run-of-the-mill bad airline service in perspective.

OCTOBER 29: NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT ...
In this week's particularly crabby edition, we talk about the why every terminal at CDG seems to be numbered two. The decline and fall of the Qatar Airways boss. Why JetBlue's boss should be declining and falling. The hard time we're having telling time on the road. Why American is losing money while Delta and United rake it in. And much, much, much more.

OCTOBER 22: NOT-SO-GRAND HOTEL
My lousy metaphor is that airlines drive the travel bus. In other words, we lavish a disproportionate amount of attention to how the airlines affect our lives on the road and not enough attention to where we put our heads on beds. But here are 1,100 words about hotels. However, far too many of those words are "cheap."

OCTOBER 8: HOW TO FLY BETTER THIS WINTER
Airlines only observe two seasons: summer and winter. And if you want to travel better this winter, you need to learn the lessons of this awful summer. That means knowing what hubs to avoid, creating your own intelligence, finding the best airport hotels and understanding that a problem anywhere on the rod now creates a crisis everywhere. Allow me to explain.

OCTOBER 7: HAMAS ATTACK SCRAMBLES ISRAEL FLYING
The surprise Hamas attack on Israel and what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promises will be "mighty vengeance" is scrambling flights to and from the Holy Land. Here's what airlines are doing at the moment--and what may happen in the days ahead.

SEPTEMBER 24: DON'T GET EVEN WITH DELTA. GET SMARTER.
You can't get even with Delta for its draconian SkyMiles devaluation--and you shouldn't even try. Your goal should be to calmly, rationally and practically formulate useful responses that emphasize your comfort, improve your productivity and maximize your financial benefit. You need to channel your anger into real solutions. Allow me to offer some thoughts to help you organize yours.

THE SUMMER CRISIS: MOTHER NATURE TKOs OUR TRAVEL
In the beginning, there were record pre-pandemic hordes hoping to fly during the Independence Day period. Then came the ferocious rainstorms around the East. Then came United's Newark meltdown. And then came more storms, more cancellations, more delays and more chaos. Throw in strikes, airport ground issues, frequent Amtrak delays, hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes and devastating wildfires and we have one of the worst travel periods in recent memory. Here is how we covered the big problems in real time.

SEPTEMBER 10: NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT ... NASTY AIRLINE EDITION
It wasn't my plan, but most of this week's column seems focused on nasty airline moves. Consider: Delta will announce more cuts to Delta SkyMiles this week. Breeze Airways, David Neeleman's new start-up, is getting a reputation for lying about its fare "sales." Seven years after finally completing the installation of Polaris seats, United will announce more changes this week. JetBlue has pricey plans if its gets its mitts on Spirit. But there is good news: A smarmy airline CEO got pied in the face--twice!--on camera.

MAY 27: ON THE ROAD INTERSTATE AGAIN
As we head out for our Great American Summer Road Trips, nearly 25% of our driving will be on the Interstates. That's astonishing since the approximately 47,000 miles of Interstate highways account for only about 1% of America's roads. But you need to know the basic facts of the road to fully understand how the system works.

MAY 16: WESTJET AND ITS PILOTS MAKE LAST-MINUTE PEACE
It's been more than 20 years since a North American airline was hit with a pilot strike. But the Canadian carrier WestJet and its pilots went right to the brink before making a labor peace. There was no strike, but the settlement came late enough that plenty of flyers were inconvenienced. Here is how we covered the problems in real time.

MAY 13: THE STATE OF PLAY IN TRAVEL NOW
In the chaos of our daily lives on the road, we often miss the important changes that are transforming our travel experience. Here's my good-faith effort to note the milestones. What you need to know about passports and hotel cleanliness and who's flying now. And much more.

APRIL 1: LET'S GET SMALL: SUE THE AIRLINES AND WIN
Do you ever get so angry at your airline that you feel like suing? We sometimes do. And if you want to do it, there's a way to drag the airlines to the bar of justice at minimum cost to you and with maximum inconvenience to them. And you can beat 'em.

MARCH 11: SIT DOWN. SHUT UP. BUCKLE UP.
There are many important things to discuss this week, but we need to circle back to the basics. Why are you not wearing your seat belt on your flights? Do you want to die? Why are you ignoring the recent spate of death and injury caused by surprise turbulence? Honest, folks, sit down, shut up and buckle up. There are no excuses.

FEBRUARY 27: YOUR FLIGHT IS DELAYED. EVERYONE'S IS DELAYED.
How's February gone for flyers? Massive delays and cancellations nationwide? Check. Strikes? Check. Terminal fires? Check. Near-record holiday weekend travel? Check. Snow in Southern California? Yup--along with early summer weather in the nation's capital. Here is how we've covered it in real time.

FEBRUARY 11: NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT ...
A huge edition filled with fact and analysis (and, of course, snark) concerning airline meltdowns, craven congressmen, Delta deceit, balloon shoot downs and so much more.

JANUARY 28: SMASH-AND-GRAB YOUR CREDIT CARDS
Since loyalty is dead and the nation's airlines and hotels now treat every transaction as transactional, it's a reminder to turn the metaphoric tables. Don't be loyal to them--or their credit cards. Get a new credit card, score the increasingly large acquisition bonus, then get the next card for its acquisition bonus. This smash-and-grab strategy is the only way to ensure you're winning the frequency game now.

JANUARY 22: THE POST-COVID FLYING WORLD
Covid turned the travel world upside down and it is only now that airlines are beginning to rebuild their international schedules. To say it's chaotic and unclear out there is an understatement. Here's my best shot of a roundup of schedule changes you'll find this year if you want to book an international business trip or take a long-delayed holiday.

JANUARY 14: HOW TO STOP AIRLINE MELTDOWN MADNESS
Travelers are never spoiled for choice. We even get to choose our meltdowns. But we really need to stop carriers from getting away with bailing on flights for days at a time, which is what Southwest Airlines did over the holidays. Here are a half-dozen ideas that the FAA and the DOT could use to protect flyers, keep them moving and help them when they are stranded.

JANUARY 12: A NEW FLIGHT MELTDOWN AND THIS TIME IT'S NATIONWIDE
Just days after Southwest Airlines' Titanic holiday meltdown, the Federal Aviation Administration grounded all departures nationwide for nearly two hours. The reason? A critical safety system, called NOTAMs, collapsed. The aged pilot-notification operation created a full day of chaos around the nation. We'll learn more about the government failure in the weeks and months ahead, but here is how we have covered it in real time.