BEST (AHEM...) OF BRANCATELLI
By Joe Brancatelli
It is incredibly arrogant of any creative person--and I like to think that I am a creative person--to pick his or her own "best" work. Like any creative person, I look at the work I've done and make judgments. I have my favorites. But "best" should be the judgment of others.
All that said, however, I am aware of the material that has resonated with business travelers, material that has stood the test of the years, the columns that exist as more than ephemera. When you write a weekly column--or, as I have in recent years, as many as four columns a week--you live in the moment. You are, as they say, writing a first draft of history and you bump from moment to moment trying to make sense of the passing scene.
These columns, I think--I hope--live beyond the moment.
I expected JoeSentMe.com to last a month until commercial publishers came to their senses after 9/11. That we're still here is a testament to the insanity of the commercial publishers. One thing we have done best in the intervening years is to write about us. Not airplanes or trains or automobiles or hotels. But us, the business travelers. Here are some of my most interesting columns about the life on the road we've been living since 9/11.
To me, airlines are a business tool, like a laptop or the stapler on my desk. Of course, it seems to me that the people who make staplers are a lot smarter than most of the people in the airline C-suites. And that's where I get myself into trouble. I see stupidity and I feel compelled to write about it. So here is a collection of columns about them, the airlines. I think it exposes them for what they are.
TRAVEL TERRORISM, THE TSA AND US
I have never traveled in a time when terrorism wasn't an issue. But terrorism is different since 9/11. Every flight and every hotel and anyplace we gather everywhere in the world is a potential target. And the Transportation Security Administration has changed how we approach our daily routine. It's all a part of the business-travel fabric now.
TRAINS OF THOUGHT
Our lives as frequent flyers would be a hell of a lot better if we could sprinkle more trains into the mix. But rail travel in the United States is a mess, a victim of 19th-century thinking in a 21st-century world. We spend far too much time waxing nostalgic about the glories of the 20th Century Limited and far too little time thinking about where rail travel can replace short-haul flights or onerous local car commutes. Here are some fresh thoughts about railroads and the business traveler, complete with links to some of my "best" columns about Amtrak and its weird operations.
THE MARTIN DEUTSCH READER
Here is something you will not read in a Martin Deutsch column: He turned 80 in April, 2011. Martin doesn't celebrate his birthday, but we shouldn't ignore more than 50 years of work of the man who essentially invented business-travel journalism. So I've got some thoughts about the man and choose 17 of his columns worth revisiting.
JOE'S BUSINESS-TRAVEL BUYING GUIDES
The eternal battle between business travelers and the travel industry seems to have an immutable front line: price. Here is my current best thinking about buying airline fares, hotel rooms, rental cars and international business-class travel. Plus insight into general T&E expenditures and finding credit cards that don't charge foreign-exchange fees.
LIFE AND DEATH ON THE ROAD
On February 12, 2009, I scribbled some thoughts about life and death on the road after watching the valiant crew of US Airways Flight 1549 get their 15 minutes of fame. I also linked to eight other columns from the last decade where we discussed the fine line between life and death on the road. Then, late that evening, Continental Connection Flight 3407 crashed near Buffalo, killing 50 people. And we were once again reminded that the fine line between life and death on the road is thin indeed.
THE ECHOES OF 9/11
In 2006, five years after our lives on the road changed forever, it was still difficult to fathom exactly what happened--and why. But on the fifth anniversary of that horrific day, I offered some thoughts about how we've adjusted (or haven't) with particular attention paid to my contemporary commentary and observations at the time. The simple fact of the matter is that I slept through 9/11--and haven't had a good night's sleep since.
THE BUSINESS-TRAVEL BASICS
The basic tactics of business travel change all of the time even when the basic topics do not. So here are more than a dozen of my most tactical columns--constantly updated to reflect current realities of the road--about basic topics such as how to buy travel; tips for effective complaining; how to sue an airline; global phones; checked-bag strategies; and much more.
JOE'S ULTIMATE BUSINESS-TRAVEL TIP SHEET
Every business traveler has a short list of "can't miss" tips: to get the best fare or an upgrade; of the best restaurants and best hotels; or the most reliable way to snare a quiet corner in your favorite airport club. These are my 25 current best tips: about dealing with airlines, hotels and car-rental firms; about managing your frequent-travel plans; and how to maximize your productivity and comfort on the road. They are gleaned from more than 20 years of reporting about the ups and downs and traps of a life on the road.
UNITED AIRLINES: UNFRIENDLY SKIES
On August 24, 2000, in the midst of United's nightmarish operational meltdown, I called the carrier a "rotting hulk of an airline." United's bankruptcy-court filing on December 9, 2002, proved the accuracy of my rhetorical flourish from two years earlier. But any business traveler who lived through the decline of United could see the disaster coming. So could anyone who looked at the financial and operational facts rather than listened to the bleatings of United's unimaginative, stolid--and dare I say stupid--management. Although many of the legacy carriers have subsequently followed United into Chapter 11, the one-time goliath's descent into what became one of the nation's longest, costliest and, arguably, one of the least successful, bankruptcies is worth remembering.
ABOUT 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's also the former executive editor of Frequent Flyer and has been a consultant to or columnist for more business-travel and leisure-travel publishing operations than he can remember. He started his career as a business journalist and created JoeSentMe in the dark days after 9/11 while he was stranded in a hotel room in San Francisco. He lives on the Hudson River in the tourist town of Cold Spring.
THE FINE PRINT All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.
This column is Copyright © 2015 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2015 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.