In the end, it will be body language and facial expressions that save the airline industry.
Let’s face it: most experienced business travelers have cut way back on their airline time. The trips that have to be made still get booked. But gone are the days of, “Y’know, good old Maurice has been ordering steady. I’m tired of the phone; I’m gonna dash up there and call on him in person.” Nope; hardly ever happens anymore, unless Maurice’s account is in danger. The mere thought of voluntarily sipping the cocktail of humiliation and discomfort that is air travel is enough to send even million-milers running for the Pepto.
But there are times when you need to get in the same room with someone. Times when phone, email and/or Skype won’t cut it. When you have to see a process while hearing the right voice explain it. This is why I endure two flights, three airports, two trains and 28 hours to get to Japan. Of course, when I’m going there, it’s to see people I like. Two flights, six hours, domestic, with checked bags for four days? I better like whoever is on the other end.
But there are happy exceptions. Done right, the one-day, out-and-back trip can feel like business travel ought to feel. As I write this, I’m waiting for the return flight on such a trip, this one from my home in Orlando to Charlotte, N.C. Here’s why such trips can work so well:
- This was not a phone mission. It required in-person size-ups by me and the other guy. It went famously. Now, whether we do business this time or not, I’ve made a friend and created any number of potential futures.
- By definition, for a trip to fit into one day, you really can’t fly more than three hours each way. Two is better. Less plane time, less stress.
- Efficiency. Not much time; soon you’ll have to head back to the airport. Better get things done. Built-in excuse against, “Hell; we can do that tomorrow. Let’s get some beers and head to a strip club fulla people who like to take cell phone pictures and post ’em on Facebook!”
- No checked bags. This is key. You don’t have time, much less the need, for anything you might have to check. If you have to bring samples or presentation boards, then you should probably be taking someone to dinner, in which case you need a room for the night, in which case you’re reading the wrong article. Kindly get out of the aisle and let me by.
- But be prepared. A briefcase is big enough for a pair of underwear and your contact lens stuff, in case a day trip gets flight-canceled into an overnight. Just sayin’.
- Dang computer is heavy. Well, you might need the notebook for a presentation; there’s no getting around that. But if not, a smartphone can hold you for a day. Right? Much easier on the shoulder.
- Your own bed. This is hyuuuuuje. Whatever happens on the trip, good or bad, you have a better than even chance of lying awake worrying about it in your own bed, with a bedbug-free, firm, familiar-smelling mattress.
- Morning wake-up: Dad’s home! Always better to not miss the family and be able to make breakfast for the kid.
Of course, overnights and hotel stays long enough to unpack and get laundry done will never go away. But we can reduce them, no question. You have a home for a reason. Take care of business, and take care of yourself. Hm? Oh, that was the announcement for my boarding zone. Ha! I don’t even need overhead bin space!♦
© 2013 Adam Barr