Curbside Consult with Dr. Jayne 2/21/22
I’ve had a fair amount of work-related travel in the last few weeks and have noted the distinct lack of business travelers in the friendly skies. Others in the industry have noted the same, as companies have shifted away from in-person meetings in favor of ever-present videoconferencing software.
Airlines have been strapped for business during the pandemic and are trying to capture revenue from the pent-up demand of individuals wanting leisure and family travel. As a result, we’re seeing some overall changes in routes and schedules. We’re also seeing changes to flights after they’re already booked, which might be tolerated by leisure travelers, but which creates a mess for those of us traveling for work.
In the last week, I’ve received four flight change notifications that shift my departures or arrivals enough that I need to fly in a day early or stay a date later in order to meet the client’s meeting request. It feels like the days of being able to fly in and out of some cities on the same day are soon going to be over, if they’re not already. Even if the flight change notifications are acceptable, I’ve run into issues with airline websites not updating appropriately to allow travelers to update their Outlook calendars with the new flight information. It’s a small thing, but when you add up a number of annoyances, it definitely compounds.
With declining numbers of business travelers, the whole airline experience feels messier and more disorganized. I’ve been in several TSA PreCheck lines with people who don’t understand the process and start unpacking their laptops and liquids, which aggravates not only their fellow travelers, but the TSA agents, who seem a more aggravated than their baseline state. Boarding processes seem to take longer as people fumble with their phones and their overstuffed carry-on bags. People seem to be less attentive, probably more focused on their phones or music than on what’s happening around them.
I had to coach some newbie Southwest Airlines passengers through the fact that there aren’t any assigned seats on that carrier. Clearly, they missed the four different announcements that were made by various gate agents and flight attendants during the process and seemed upset that they didn’t have reserved seats. I’m guessing they didn’t make their own reservations since the lack of seat assignments is pretty obvious during the Southwest booking process.
I always joked about creating the all-business airline if I ever arrive at a position where I am insanely wealthy. I would pay more to fly with people who could board quickly, stow their luggage efficiently, and not act sassy to the flight crew. Being able to deplane quickly and move past the jetway exit without having to stop and adjust one’s overflowing open-top tote bag would also be a plus. After the things I’ve seen this week, I think zippers or some other mechanism of secure closure should be mandatory on all carry-on bags, but that would be asking a lot when we can’t even get people to exhibit civil behavior.
One of my flights this week almost had to go back to the gate due to a belligerent passenger who refused to wear his mask. Whether you agree with masking or not, thinking that you’re going to be able to bully a flight crew isn’t a good idea. Had we been forced to return to the gate, I think some of the passengers might have also considered taking justice into their own hands, given the number of short connections at the other end of this flight.
At least I’ve taken enough trips recently that I feel like I’ve got my travel mojo back and am back to my usual packing efficiency. I did somehow forget toothpaste on a flight earlier this month, but it was a good excuse to visit a local pharmacy and to also pick up some dark chocolate as well as the necessities. The workplaces I’ve visited are significantly more casual than they were pre-pandemic, with jeans being the norm at several places where we would have received glaring looks had we worn them before.
I’m working with a couple of companies that have embraced an outdoorsy vibe and I’m hoping for longer-term engagements where hiking pants can be a permanent part of my business travel wardrobe. I’ve had to make some adjustments in how many snacks I pack for a trip, though, because airport concession offerings remain significantly limited at most of the places I’ve been. My home airport still has half its restaurants and about a third of the newsstand shops closed, and you never know what you’re going to find when you arrive somewhere you haven’t been in a while.
For me, one of the biggest adjustments of traveling has been operating exclusively on my laptop. Over the last couple of years, I’ve apparently become spoiled by the setup in my home office, which includes not only a screaming-fast PC, but monitors that make me feel like I’m working at mission control rather than in a converted spare bedroom.
When I do have to do videoconference meetings with clients while I’m traveling, it’s a trick to balance the meeting software with any materials I might need to use while still being able to see the faces of the team I’m meeting with. I keep experimenting with different approaches and maybe something will stick, although it seems to be easier to get things the way I like them with Zoom than when I have to use Teams or GoToMeeting. I’d be interested to hear what usability experts think of the various conferencing software options – there are definitely some I like better than others, and of course a couple that I’d be happy never having to use again.
For those of you who are traveling again, what are the most striking changes you’re seeing with your clients and your travel patterns? Have you come up with new hacks that make things easier? Leave a comment or email me.
Email Dr. Jayne.
There used to be a business airline: Midwest Express. It was originally the (internal) corporate airline for Kimberley Clark and retained that corporate jet feel. All seats were BIG and leather. If you flew in the afternoon, they baked chocolate ship cookies on board for everyone. It was an incredibly civilized experience, even for those of us who were doing same-day in-and-out meetings (in Milwaukee for me). Alas, long gone.
On videoconferencing – try Vowel (Vowel.com). It’s the business airline version of Zoom.
Yep, it was a great airline. and the chocolate air ‘ships’ were great but if you took a bite while in flight it made for a dangerous landing!
And I heard someone was trying to bring it back… but that was before Covid.
re: leaving the home office, I wouldn’t stand a chance without a portable monitor – though that assumes you get some chance to sit down. (I’ve got a ViewSonic VG1655.)
(Not a shill, I promise) Have you seen the Xebec laptop monitor extender? Not cheap, but my frequent-traveler partner asked for one for Christmas: https://www.thexebec.com/
Seconded. There are a number of similar laptop monitor extender products on the market now, with either one or two extra screens. I recommend them!
I’ll be work-traveling for the first time since February 2020 (when I struggled through am exec meeting with a mix of morning sickness and as-of-then-unknown-COVID) when I head to HIMSS in a few weeks. I’m a jittering mess of excitement to see colleagues and clients and be back in ‘action’, while also nervous at the idea of leaving my toddler behind for the first time ever and having to actually remember how to do my hair and wear proper shoes for three days straight.
I’m willing to bet you’d make bank sitting in the HIMSS hotel lobbies selling phone chargers, laptop chargers, toothbrushes, combs…