Today article is one of those off-topic things I just felt compelled to write about. It also has a bit of the sarcasm us New Yorkers are famous for, but I’m betting the other business travelers will be able to relate!
With my work comes travel and in the last 15 years, I have seen a fair amount of the world.
Let me rephrase that, I have seen a fair amount of the world’s airports, hotels, manufacturing facilities, and restaurants.
Along the way, I have met some very good people, learned a whole lot about how different products are made or produced and discovered for myself that no matter where you live, where you grew up, or what you do, everyone still wants the simple things in life: a secure job, a roof over their head, and to be afforded the time to both provide for and enjoy raising a family.
If I could just do these things without having to actually go to the airport and get on a plane!
It’s not that I hate flying, I in fact find it relaxing once we have taken off and I have the time and space to work or read a good book. It’s the getting there, dealing with airport security lines and the more than occasional condescending traveler.
While I know many others have made a list of the things they dislike about travel I figured I would add my list of the 10 worst things about business travel to the pile.
- The worst thing about business travel is missing out on events at home. Through the years I have tried to always make the important things, but the things I missed made for some of my worst nights of travel. There is nothing quite like the empty feeling you have in your heart when you are sitting in a hotel 2000 miles from home and your son or daughter is having the game of their life. The road warrior will tell you to have someone videotape it- I’m here to say video sucks! Nothing replaces being there for the good and the bad and if I am thankful for one thing it was being smart enough to realize this early on and working hard to make sure I could be there.
- The carriers themselves – While they all claim to have a customer loyalty program they’re about as loyal to their flyers as Liz Taylor was to her husbands. (For you young folks Liz was married 8 times.) I believe they all based their loyalty programs on the Janet Jackson song, “What have you done for me lately because you can fly over 125,000 miles for 15 straight years but should you have the misfortune of getting sick yourself or having a loved one require more of your time at home you can plan on flying in coach until you show once again you are a true road warrior.”
- The TSA (Transportation Security Administration) – These folks change the rules on a daily basis and I believe thoroughly enjoy watching the chaos it creates. And just when you think they have gotten smart by creating Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, they will mess that up by letting the person who flies once or twice a year join the club and when they get in line they have no idea what they are supposed to do. “Can I take this bottle of water through? No? What do you mean I can’t bring this bottle of wine for my sister? I don’t want to check my bag! I want to know who is looking at that 3-D scan…do you save those images?” Good lord, would it be too much to ask for an idiot identifier that automatically sends those who have no clue to a different line? Being fair, 98% of the TSA Agents try their best each day, the organization is just hopelessly mismanaged and it’s hard to look efficient and professional when you work with an organization and management team that hasn’t come up with a single new idea to make the process more efficient and secure in 10 years. As an example, the airport in Charleston, South Carolina is about to complete a new expansion and upgrade of the airport. They just opened the new TSA entry section, and it has the same old x-ray machines, scanners, conveyor belts and stainless steel tables and the same old plastic bins, they just moved them. If you would like to see the new tray carrier and conveyor systems that make the line go smoother in airports, you will have to travel out of the US.
- The entitled traveler – This number seems to have increased dramatically in the last few years and if you fly as much as I do you know the people I am talking about. First, you have the folks that apparently forgot everything they ever learned about forming a line in grade school. Regardless if the flight is boarding or waiting to board, they drag their bag right up to the front of the line. You can include in this group those who have no idea how to get out of the way for those who need special assistance to board, some to the point where they are even offended that they might have to move for a wheelchair. The next entitled traveler is the guy/girl who treats the flight attendants and people who work at the counter like they are second-class citizens while demanding seat changes, drinks, or upgrades. On the Doug Plucknette Airline, anyone who acts this way will immediately lose their loyalty status!
- The loud cell phone talkers – If there is one thing that will send me over the edge it’s these guys (and note I did not type guys/girls). This is a guy thing, and I’m a little ticked at myself for not making this number 1 on my list. Listen up guys, we don’t care where you are going, who you saw last night, how many drinks you had at the bar, what the account you are working on is worth, that your boss is an a-hole or how many times you cheated on your wife or girlfriend! FIND SOMEPLACE ELSE TO TALK! Somehow the rest of us manage to run businesses, raise families, and deal with the occasional crisis without making it everyone else’s business. You do it in the airport, in the line at the hotel, on the rental car shuttle and will even board an airplane and sit next to someone reading a book and not have the good sense to shut your pie holes. I just want you to know if you are the person who tries to do it when I am around, I am the guy to starts reading his book REALLY LOUDLY until you suddenly sense that maybe you ticked me off. Save the phone calls for your hotel room, office, car, or someplace where there aren’t a dozen strangers who want to strangle you!
- Hotel and rental car counters – The person standing right in front of you is a paying customer, please do not answer the phone when we are waiting to check in or rent a car. If you do, the correct way to do so is to say: “You have reached the Hilton, please hold.” Anyone who travels has experienced this before and because we travel we also know that after so many rings the call will be forwarded to another line.
- People who have stupid money – One of the perks you used to get when you flew over 100,00 air-miles in a year was the upgrade into Business Class (Aka First Class) seats that were not purchased prior to a few days before the flight. Anyone who has flown in business class knows that the seating is larger, much more comfortable, the service is better, and you even get a free meal now and then. Truth is the nicest part about business class is it’s quieter. Once the doors close and the loud talkers have been forced to end their phone calls you will find business class a quiet comfortable place to catch a nap or get some work done. That was until the economy improved a bit and some of the wealthy younger folks decided that business class should be family class. It’s now quite common to find couples with infants and/or a few toddlers enjoying the comforts of business class where the adjective quiet no longer applies. Do I sound grumpy? Let me be clear, I love kids. It’s not the kids who make the noise, it’s the parents who are constantly yelling at them that make the noise. I guess I just don’t understand why anyone would be foolish enough to spend that kind of money on a seat for a child. But then again, I have never had that kind of money.
- Pets on planes – I love pets too. I have just never felt it was a good idea to drag them along on a plane with the family and honestly unless your pet is a TRUE working dog (aka seeing eye dog, police dog) it doesn’t belong in the passenger cabin. The problem is now out of control to the point that anyone can claim their pet is a working animal and you can buy them special vests online for $20, and now that shedding cat is sitting in the seat next to you making strange sounds with its eyes open wide, ears back, hair standing on end and totally freaked out by the movement, noise, and changes in cabin pressure. “Oh, you’re allergic to cats? We have a middle seat in the back row available if you would like to move.” Want more pet stories? Talk to a flight attendant some time about pets who have gotten sick from flying, pets who have caused flights to be diverted because they couldn’t control their bowels, and pet owners who have requested to land at the nearest airport because “Checkers isn’t feeling well.”
- I feel sorry for the infrequent traveler – While the air carriers all make wonderful looking commercials that show smiling workers and passengers, and most people will, in fact, have no issues at all getting to and from their destination, the most taken advantage of customer is the infrequent flyer. These are the folks who travel by air less than once a year and aren’t aware of the games the air carriers and “discount” websites play that could make their travel experience a nightmare. I see the pain of the infrequent traveler on a weekly basis: they show up to the airport with a piece of paper printed from home with a confirmation number, and when they get to the kiosk to print their tickets they find out while they do have a confirmed ticket they do not have a seat/seats on the flight. “What do you mean we don’t have a seat? We paid for a ticket, we got a confirmation number.” The gate agent then informs them the flight is overbooked by 8 people and that they will have to wait and see as the plane boards if a seat will open up for them. You are about to see 1 of 3 reactions- anger followed by screaming, tears, or a combination of both. The situation is about to get worse. The gate agent informs the infrequent flyer the flight is indeed overbooked and the next flight with seats available is in 2 days! If you don’t think this happens you haven’t spent any time in an airport in the last 10 years. So here are some quick tips for the infrequent traveler.
- Book your tickets with airlines you want to fly with- if you’re searching for cheap flights at other sites you have no power to help yourself if something goes wrong if you didn’t buy the ticket through the company itself.
- Make sure when you book your ticket and have a confirmation code that you have a seat as well. Continue to check from time to time that you indeed have that same seat you selected the day you purchased your ticket. Understand that even in coach, the airlines have several tickets they sell and different tickets come with different rules.
- Know that you can check in 24 hours before your flight takes off, this is when you will be absolutely sure you have a seat. Check in as soon as you can and print that ticket!
- NEVER – Make connections in expensive cities. Avoid NYC, Philly, and Chicago at all costs, as if you get a weather delay in NY or Chicago, expect $300 a night for a hotel plus taxi, plus your meals.
- Getting angry and yelling never helps your cause, it only makes the agent less likely to help. Remember it is not their fault you don’t fly enough to know the rules they have to live by.
- If your trip is important, fly with a major air carrier (Delta/United/USAir/American) because if something goes wrong they will work with all other carriers to help you get to your destination. If they have to cancel a flight they will get where you need to go by working with other carriers. The low-cost carriers don’t do this and they don’t have the assets to make it up.
10. Backpacks – It’s not that I dislike the backpack itself, they are a handy invention and you can back a lot of stuff into a good backpack. But for crying out loud would those of you who use them please come to the understanding that when that thing is strapped to your back your body is no longer the same size? Please??
I get hit by at least 7 backpacks a week, most are when I am sitting on the airplane in the aisle seat and Jimbob comes walking down the aisle and as he is standing next to me he decides he should turn around and talk to his buddy Goober, and as he does so that 40 pound pack hits me right in the head.
I just wish the gate agents and flight attendants would tell people as they board to take the backpack off of your back and carry it in front of you please!
So there you have it. While I sometimes complain about my time on the road when one looks at what it takes to get us all from point A to point B, the industry really does a remarkable job.
Giving credit where credit is due, the vast majority of people who work in the industry are also a pleasure to deal with. The key is treating them with the same respect that we want to be treated with.
All in all with getting close to 2 million air miles traveled, looking back, the worst part about travel is not being home!