2024 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 2: TURBULENT TIMES
For what must be the zillionth time, I have to ask: Do you want to die? Or is it a comprehension problem? Explain it to me, please: What part of "Buckle your seat belt!" don't you understand? After three serious in-flight turbulence incidents in three weeks--one of them fatal--I still don't understand why travelers so mindlessly insist on flying at five or six hundred miles an hour without a seatbelt.

MAY 12: TRAVEL TALES TOLD BY OTHERS
Why is Hertz charging Tesla renters for gasoline fill-ups? Why are Uber and Lyft threatening to leave Minnesota? Why is a town in Japan blocking views of Mt. Fuji? Is Amtrak finally upgrading passenger terminals? All these questions--and many more--are answered, but not by me. This week, I let others explain.

MAY 5: BIG
A long-delayed FAA Reauthorization Bill is big: more than 1,000 pages that makes a pile 10 inches high and 11 pounds in heft. It also spends more than $100 billion. What's it all mean? Big, big changes in our lives on the road, covering everything from airfare refunds to where we fly from certain airports.

APRIL 28: A FOOL'S ERRAND
The chief executives of Delta and American each earn more than the bosses at much larger (and more profitable) firms such as Walmart, Amazon and ExxonMobil. How does that even happen? And why is American Airlines going to the dogs while its CEO is headed to the bank?

APRIL 21: LIFE ON THE ROAD ... OR THE TWILIGHT ZONE
What do you make of a new aircraft featuring seven kinds of business class seats and no seats at all in first class? Or an airport hit with two years of rain in just 24 hours? Or a politician who wants to spend $500 million on airport security for himself and other pols? It all makes me wonder if I'm on the road or in the Twilight Zone.

APRIL 14: NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT ... CONTEXT & NUANCE EDITION
Okay, I usually save these Nobody Asked Me columns for snark, but let's go for context and nuance this week. In other words, critical thinking about hotel amenities, airline strikes, airports by any other name, the high cost of Asia travel, airport automats and much more.

APRIL 7: NO TRANSPORTERS? LIFE ON THE ROAD IS TOUGH
Ever since Star Trek premiered in 1966, we've waited for transporters to save us from airlines, spare us the airports and obviate rental cars. But now the founders of Star Trek say transporters aren't practical and that means we must deal with the pedestrian realities of life on the road: Boeing's endless failures; Ted Cruz's attempts to create an exclusive class of travel for politicians; and hotel door locks that even a dumb Klingon could hack and leave us vulnerable.

MARCH 31: PLANNING THE TRIP, HEARING THE NEWS
Hearing the news ain't like being there, the late Melanie sang. And that is the one true thing about travel. Nothing's like being there. We are lucky to be able to travel for all sorts of reasons: business, adventure, leisure and so much more. Most of all, travel helps us understand. It's why we do it. It's why we should never stop doing it.

MARCH 24: THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE TRAVEL UGLY
This was one of those weeks where the good, the bad and the travel ugly reared their metaphoric heads all at once. United launches--and then suspends--family mileage pooling. Alaska Air wants to charge you to learn about its sale fares. American's WiFi strategy is literally unexplainable. Hampton's new hotels will have smaller rooms and cheaper furnishings. And much, much more this wacky week.

MARCH 17: MARCH MADNESS
Maybe it is this goofy weather or our very bizarre politics or the tenor of the sports moment, but it's truly March Madness on the road. So forgive me for this week's offering. It's not lyrical like How Are Things in Glocca Morra? nor tasty like a St. Joseph's zeppole. It's just the life we're living on the road now.

MARCH 10: THAT WAS THE TRAVEL WEEK THAT WAS
The nominees for wildest travel stories this week: American's transformation into US Airways. Boeing says the dog ate its exit-door homework. JetBlue's money pit. Lufthansa's chaotic business class cabins and endless strikes. How not to carry cocaine on a flight.

MARCH 3: THREE CITIES, THREE PROBLEMS
Cities are what I do. I like small towns just fine. Resorts are okay, I guess. But cities are what jazz me. I like the energy and, honestly, the craziness. Cities make me smile. But this week, I'm the bearer of bad news about several cities. To wit: Denver International is melting down. Hyatt has a huge Las Vegas problem. And Hong Kong is probably over thanks to China's heavy-handed management.

FEBRUARY 25: ASKED AND ANSWERED
Several existential travel questions asked: Why does the U.S. government like baggage fees and hate Southwest Airlines? Will there be any holiday business class bargains this year? Is the Amex Platinum worth $695? What should travelers expect from the Capital One bid to buy Discover? And here are my answers ...

FEBRUARY 18: BE MORE COMFORTABLE IN COACH (REALLY!)
Nancy Pelosi was a master vote-counter as Speaker of the House. But her load factor miscalculation left her in a middle coach seat last week on a flight to the Super Bowl. Don't make that mistake. Here's how to score the seat you want in coach--and guarantee the middle seat is empty. Plus the rise of the 3- or 4-seat international coach "couch."

FEBRUARY 11: CARS WITH WINGS
You can still do it: Pick up a new car in Europe, drive around for a holiday, then ship the vehicle home. But there are wrinkles, including a South Carolina option and several lease-and-sellback schemes. Here is the latest on European Delivery plans, a secret of the savviest frequent flyers.

FEBRUARY 4: FEBRUARY FOLLIES
This month's key issues: the Boeing 737MAX-9s are (almost) all back. Two Ohio airports have a brilliant service while you're parked there. Why are American Airlines cutting staff and Delta raising credit card fees? The tale of Amsterdam's $13 stroopwafel. Idiots defaming pilots of color. The depressing reality of the continued imposition of the 3-ounce carry-on rule. And more.

JANUARY 28: NOBODY ASKED BE, BUT ... FAILURE EDITION
This edition is all about failure. There's been a lot of failure on the road lately. Continuing disclosures of MAX-9 failures from Boeing, the failing JetBlue-Spirit merger, failing start-up airlines and the failure of schedules and airport services are just some examples. It's a dreary scene indeed.

JANUARY 21: FIVE STORIES I MISSED
I write thousands of words about travel each week. And it's still not enough. Important stories have slipped through the metaphoric cracks or haven't gotten enough attention here. So this week a quick look at some things I missed: Porter Airlines' interesting new coach cabin. The demise of a room-service ghost kitchen operation. The spotty success of efforts to stop "drip pricing" at hotels and resorts. Why are cities subsidizing airlines to fly? And why you should never carry large amounts of cash to the airport.

JANUARY 14: SAVING JETBLUE COULD BE A BREEZE (AIRWAYS)
JetBlue Airways chief executive Robin Hayes jumped or was pushed out this week and his demise was inevitable. In nine years, he took a profitable, disruptive innovator and turned it into a money-losing, also-ran carrier that aped the competitors it once easily outmaneuvered. Can JetBlue be saved? It could be a Breeze if JetBlue teamed up with the struggling start-up launched by its founder.

JANUARY 07: BAD WEATHER, BLACK SWANS AND AIRLINE CRISES
No month that starts with a fatal crash can be a good one. Still, the "miraculous" evacuation of a Japan Airlines Airbus A350 at Tokyo/Haneda Airport seemed to be a felicitous omen for the beginning of 2024. But that was before the jaw-dropping incident at Alaska Airlines when the door plug of a Boeing 737MAX-9 fuselage came apart in-flight. Plus there was lousy weather in the East and the Midwest--and real questions about how "miraculous" that JAL evacuation really was. Here's how we covered it in real time.