I’m taking a quick break from my usual business themed posts to discuss something that is close to my heart: frequent flying.
Due to my hands-on approach to sales in our company, I have to fly a lot to meet customers or join partner tours all over the USA, as well as internationally. The fact that our company has a head office in Cape Town, South Africa, makes things even more interesting. As a result, I end up flying a lot.
I worked out that in a typical month, I could easily spend 100 hours on planes and in airports. That’s a lot of mileage, and a lot of waiting around. I try not to even think about the dozens and dozens of nights spent in hotels, away from home.
Eventually, you learn to take it all in your stride and live with it, but I still can’t understand why people think the “jet setter” lifestyle is glamourous. It’s not as though business travelers are jetting off to Ibiza or Macau to party every two weeks.
There are some perks though. Here’s a summary of the pro’s and con’s of frequent travel as I see it.
1. Waking up before the crack of dawn to catch a 6:30am flight. This happens more often than you would think. Particularly in the USA, where you are going to be routed through a major hub like Chicago, where you will wait for 2 hours before getting your connecting flight.
2. Security lines. Usually, this involves rapidly taking off half your clothes and ripping apart your carry-on bag, while often stuck behind impossibly slow vacation travelers, or worse- families.
3. Flight delays. A constant irritant in America and Europe’s crowded skies. Especially when you are delayed for hours while sitting on the tarmac after boarding a 6am flight, which is often the case at New York’s La Guardia airport.
4. Wasting time in between things. There is a lot of “filler time” that needs to be spent while traveling. Checking in, passing security, moving between gates, checking on flight statuses, waiting around while delayed, etc. This can be mildly improved by answering email or reading a little, but it’s still pretty much unproductive.
5. Screaming babies on planes. I don’t really need to explain this one.
6. Jumping time zones. You eventually learn to deal with jet lag effectively, but it can scramble your body clock somewhat, causing sleepiness during an important meeting, or ravenous hunger in the middle of the night, which isn’t exactly ideal.
With the con’s now out of the way, let’s move on to the better stuff.
1. Priority access. With good airline status, you get faster check-in, security line skipping, lounge access and priority boarding. For the frequent traveler, these things are absolutely essential, and make a world of difference. I’m not sure if this is just making the best out of a bad situation, but I know that I truly appreciate it when I have it and painfully miss it when flying on the wrong airline.
2. Time to think. Aside from the waiting around in airports, the actual time spent on a plane can often be a peaceful time to read or think. Not surprisingly, I get most of my blogging done on flights.
3. Hotels (if you like hotels). There is a definite point when checking out new hotels produces diminishing returns (no matter how swanky), but occasionally (and especially when my schedule isn’t jam packed), they can be pretty cool.
4. Visiting new cities. Much like the previous point, this really improves when my schedule isn’t insane, but either way, there is the chance to grab a business dinner or drive through town on the way to a meeting. I never get to see the sights on business trips, but at least I can say that I’ve visited a lot of places, sampled the food, and checked them out a little.
5. The camaraderie among regular travelers. Whether they are new acquaintances or old buddies from “the road”, frequent travelers tend to get each other, regardless of age. We can swap stories (good and bad) for hours. The quality of this experience is amplified to great effect when salespeople get together.
That’s it for now. What are your likes and pet peeves about frequent flying?