Seat 2B by Joe Brancatelli for 2013
May 15: FOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THE FUTURE OF BUSINESS TRAVEL
Depending on your generational bias, you probably expected the future of business travel to look like The Jetsons or Futurama. Or maybe you hoped that we'd be passing through ethereal spaces designed by visionaries like Eero Saarinen. Yeah, well, get over it. Business travel was never going to be like that. But I'm a cock-eyed optimist and I think business travel will get better in these four specific areas.
May 8: SUMMER FARE GAMES UP FRONT
The bad news about summer travel: Spectacular business-class deals to Europe, which spawned a decade of too-cheap-not-to-go holidays, have mostly disappeared. The good news about summer travel: Airlines are dabbling in first- and premium-economy class sales and there are even the occasional too-cheap-not-to-go bargains to Asia.
May 1: THE BATTLE FOR LAX
Like New York, the Los Angeles market is too big for one airline to dominate. Unlike New York, Los Angeles and Southern California are basically a one-airport town. If you're not winning at LAX, you're losing. American and Delta are gearing up for a good, old-fashioned airline fight there and it all takes place against the backdrop of an airport that doesn't get much love from flyers.
April 24: A LOUSY WEEK FOR BUSINESS TRAVEL
It's been a lousy week for business travel. Besides the debate over sequester delays, the TSA suddenly changed its bureaucratic mind and said we couldn't carry Swiss Army Knives after all. And airlines hiked fees and are trying to raise fares. Unless your mama was a business traveler, too, she never told you there'd be days like this.
April 17: THE NEXUS OF TERROR AND BUSINESS TRAVEL
Acts of terror can, do and will happen and if business travelers want to keep traveling on business, we must adjust swiftly to an attack anywhere in the world. A bombing on Boylston Street in Boston will reverberate and immediately change how business travelers work on Beckham Drive in Birmingham, Alabama, or Broad Street in Birmingham, England.
April 10: THE RISE OF 'PUBLIC' PRIVATE AIRPORT LOUNGES
Airport clubs unlevel the playing field in our favor. The huddled airport masses make do with chaotic public facilities but we happy few can cross to what passes for airport nirvana: private spaces with decent amenities. But guess what? The huddled masses have figured out that we band of business travel brothers have a good thing going. They want in, too. And what can only be called "public" private lounges are opening at airports around the nation to fill the demand.
April 3: WHERE HAVE ALL THE BUSINESS TRAVELERS GONE?
The business-travel world is shrinking. Literally. And not only because airlines are squeezing us into smaller seats. Fewer of us are traveling than anyone once imagined, there are fewer flights than ever before and government-compiled statistics for the state of the commercial airline system in 2012 indicate that substantial growth isn't coming anytime soon.
March 27: TOWERING IRRELEVANCE
The budget sequester is forcing the closure of air traffic control towers at 149 airports across the country. But despite what you may have been told elsewhere, this means virtually nothing to business travelers. Only around a dozen airports even have commercial service and some of them have as few as two departures a day.
March 20: HOW TO GET ELITE CHEAP(ER)
Logic is what keeps us tied to frequency plans even as they are less rewarding than ever. What, after all, is the alternative? Accepting that we deserve nothing in exchange for our custom with travel suppliers? But the real payoff now is in the elite levels. So here's how to cut the line to elite status with major airlines and hotels.
March 13: WHAT DOES A 'FREE' HOTEL NIGHT COST?
With five major hotel chains devaluating their programs, there's an obvious question: Which frequent-guest plan offers the least-expensive path to a free night? The answer: None of them. There is no yellow brick road to lodging Oz. In fact, as far as I know, there aren't even any good hotels in Oz. But we can draw some general conclusions. And I throw in a four-city comparison of the cost of a "free" room night.
March 6: A LITTLE SWAG GOES A LONG WAY
American Airlines now gives international first-class passengers an amenity kit in the shape of an iPad case. Delta's new business-class bag is a partnership with Tumi, the luggage maker. Lufthansa and Thai bags, in the shape of Rimowa luggage, command as much as $100 each on Ebay. It's fascinating how the once-humble amenity kit suddenly reflects the airlines' emphasis on high-yield international flyers.
February 27: WHY DON'T HOTELS LOVE US ANYMORE?
With five major chains slashing the benefits and perks of their frequent guest plans, you can logically ask why hotels don't love us anymore. Or you can realize that the major chains have decided that they have the hammer now that nightly rates and occupancy rates are rising again. Our challenge: How to maximize the value of our loyalty. Some thoughts on how to do it and which hotel frequency plan might be right for you.
February 20: THE PYRITE AGE OF FREQUENT FLYING
When the old United tried to merge into the old US Airways in 2000, the entire business-travel community waged a year-long campaign to keep them apart. Yet last week's 15-months-in-the-making announcement that American and US Airways would merge hardly raised our hackles. One reason why: Airlines are running with remarkable efficiency right now, racking up near-record on-time performance, dumping few flights, bumping fewer flyers and losing fewer bags. One executive claims we're in a new Golden Age. I'm more comfortable suggesting that this is the Pyrite Age of Frequent Flying.
February 13: OF COURSE THIS MERGER WILL STINK
Here's how to think about this merger: the timeline going forward, the pitfalls and the relative value of your miles. But it's silly to think that this will be anything but bad for us because it's inevitable that they screw up the data conversion and so much more.
February 6: WHEN TRAVEL TECH FAILS US
When the lights went out on Sunday's Super Bowl, Americans shrugged, grabbed another beer and cruised the buffet table again. But when technology fails business travelers, our lives on the road come crashing down. And technology has been failing us a lot lately, especially when you have a grounded plane, an airport that can't open and an airline whose computers routinely fail.
January 30: SEVEN SITES THAT MAKE BUSINESS TRAVEL BETTER
Back in 1983, we had exactly one computerized tool, the Official Airline Guide Electronic Edition. It was a big deal in the era of floppy drives and 300-baud modems. But the business-travel world is much better now, with literally thousands of Web sites and apps clamoring to make our life on the road easier. I choose seven Web sites that work for me--along with some alternatives if your mileage varies.
January 23: AN AIRLINE BRAND BY ANY OTHER NAME
American Airlines last week unveiled its first new logo, livery and branding in more than 40 years and all around America business travelers yawned. But airline branding does matter. Sometimes. For some reasons. And in a few specialized situations.
January 17: CAN THE DREAM(LINER) LIVE AFTER THE GROUNDING?
Most of us weren't flying and some of us weren't even born the last time the FAA grounded an entire model of commercial aircraft, something the agency did Wednesday evening when it abruptly ordered the Boeing 787 Dreamliner out of the skies. The DC-10 never really covered from its 1979 grounding. It'll be interesting to see if the Dreamliner will, or can, recover.
January 16: I'M NOT AFRAID OF THE DREAMLINER
A series of high-profile incidents have plagued Boeing's 15-month-old Dreamliner 787. But the extreme negativity is a reaction to media feeding frenzy and glitches that plague every new aircraft. I'm scheduled to fly a Dreamliner in a few weeks and I'm not giving the flight a moment's extra thought.
January 9: DOES ANYONE WATCH THE HOTEL TV ANYMORE?
LodgeNet, by far the biggest provider of TV service to U.S. hotels, is planning a pre-packaged bankruptcy and sale for just $60 million. It's not that we hate LodgeNet, it's just that we have no need for in-room TV anymore. We bring our own devices--laptop, phones, tablets--with their own content. And soon, we'll probably bring our own Internet, too.
January 2: WHAT THE SURVEYS SAY ABOUT US
Do you keep in touch with the person you sat next to on your last flight? Are you thrilled by business travel? Are you living a life of sex, drugs and rock and roll on the road? I'd say no, but the surveys seem to say differently. According to pollsters, business travelers are happy spendthrift adulterers. With eyes wide open and eyebrows fully raised, here's what the surveys and reports say about our lives on the road now.
These columns originally appeared at BizJournals.com.
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