Allen On Travel

A 30 year veteran of world travel (but knows nil about Orlando-area attractions), Will Allen III writes about his weekly odysseys by air on business and how the airlines rob him--and you--of time, the most precious commodity on earth. Time: It's all we have, and the airlines routinely take it from us. This blog challenges the airlines to keep their basic promises.

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Location: Raleigh, North Carolina, United States

Born 1948 in Kinston, NC and raised there in beautiful eastern North Carolina, I now live in Raleigh and commute around the country and the world.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Dread

That's the feeling that instantly grips me when I contemplate returning to the road full time at the end of this month, as it seems likely that I will do.

We all know why, because we all suffer the same experiences. Sometimes it's like being nibbled to death by ducks. Consider these examples of nibbling:
  • The incessant security hassles
  • Surly and just plain ignorant gate agents
  • Last minute gate changes at ATL from the "T" concourse to the "E" concourse
  • No place to sit or plug in your laptop in the airline club
  • Late arrivals
  • Late departures
  • Center seats
  • RJs
  • "Sorry, sir, no upgrades available"
  • Waiting 45 minutes for your checked bag to arrive at the carousel
  • No pillows or blankets on long flights
  • Broken seats and inoperative video systems on overseas flights
  • Long takeoff runway waits
  • The tyranny of on-board announcements you've heard for 40 years, and broadcast way too loud by a baritone FA or pilot who wants you to know every last detail of the flight
  • Last minute aircraft changes which cause you to lose your precious aisle seat or upgrade
  • The tyranny of TV monitors in gate areas turned up to maximum volume and cawing ceaslessly about the latest celebrity hangnail or sex-change operation in the brief moments between commercials, which are even louder than the programming
  • "Sorry, sir, but the only car we have left is a Yugo"
  • Waiting 30 minutes for the car rental shuttle and then it's SRO (at ORD Hertz and Avis busses have many times actually passed by the American pick-up too full to stop, with the driver shrugging at the hapless souls, me among them, shivering in the frigid air)
  • "Sorry, sir, but we have only smoking rooms left, and nothing's available on the concierge floor."
I could go on, but you get the point. In fact, I would appreciate comments adding to the list above. It might be fun to develop a definitive list.

And that's just the LITTLE things. How about these somewhat bigger problems:
  • "Your flight has been cancelled. Please join the conga line snaking around the corner way down there with one agent working to see about rebooking. This gate area is now closed. Goodbye."
  • "Sorry, sir, but the hotel is full due to the snow closure of O'Hare, but we found a room for you at a Hilton in Evansville, Indiana."
  • [When calling the airline Elite line]: "Due to weather-related cancellations throughout the country, no agents are available. Please call back a week from Tuesday, and thank you for your loyalty to XYZ Airlines. We appreciate your business sooooooooo much!" [Click]
  • Missed connection after the last onward flight has departed for the day due to late inbound flight
And those, of course, are but a small handful of the rotten tomatoes hurled from unseen hands on routine trips to the airport. Again, it might be fun, in a warped sort of way, to compile a complete list of such unfortunate events, and I invite comments with additions.

I remember the transition back to the road. Pretty soon dread turns to resignation, like the reluctant acceptance one feels when suffering through a daylong sinus headache.

In addition to the sadness I feel at being away from family 71.43% of every week, I get to run the taxi-airport-airline-airport-rental car-hotel-rental car-airport-airline-airport-taxi gauntlet as well, every week, week in and week out.

On the slightly brighter side, Joe Brancatelli (rightly) reminds us from time to time that we who must travel all the time are the lucky ones. There are remarkable experiences that come our way with in-person exposure to all corners of the real world, opportunities which the vast majority of people never have.

I strive to be optimistic, and I do love my work. It's challenging and fun, and involves constant imagination and creativity to find solutions to knotty problems. Best of all, constant interaction with interesting people ensures that consulting is never dull. Those job characteristics hook a lot of people into consulting (surprisingly, it's rarely the money that keeps us in the game).

Those positive considerations round off the sharpest edges of the awful dread I feel in pondering my return to the grind. But it would be wrong to say that I am looking forward to telling the taxi driver, when he asks where I'm going, "RDU Airport, please."

4 Comments:

Blogger bob said...

Yes airline travel is not what it use to be. I am a multi million mile Delta frequent survivor flying out of Tallahassee, FL. The days of flying out and back for a meeting on the same day are over. Not counting Crown room conferences in ATL!

I have adapted. I have reached the point in my career that I can be a little more flexible. I have added an extra day or two to my trips. I play tourist with the extra time.

It is amazing how many times over the years I have taken a business trip but never really appreciated the place I was visiting. The extra time allows me to "bend" with travel problems and it also allows me to check out the places I have been over the years but never really "visited".

Of course I am lucky that I have no small children at home now and being an established "expert" in my field allows me to schedule at my convenience.

I feel for the young "road warrior" starting out. He or she must contend with the crowds and the tight corporate travel budgets.

But hey! It beats being a "cube rat".

1/18/2008 7:23 AM  
Blogger Charlene Ann Baumbich said...

Am I the last business traveler alive who, given the choice (when it's my only choice, otherwise I'm an aisle gal) between a window or middle seat, selects the middle?

Why do I do this? Because there is more room in the middle. Window seats are the most cramped seats on most airlines since the fuselage bends around under your feet (can't rest your feet where they want to rest), and there is less room on the floor in front of you to stow your briefcase or handbag.

I know people claim that with a window, they're at least guaranteed an arm rest, but I've never had to vie for one in the middle. People play nice. Sometimes I end up with two!

1/18/2008 11:02 AM  
Blogger William A. Allen III said...

That's a great plan, Bob! And good advice to anyone with the flexibility to follow your example. Thanks for sharing.

Will

1/18/2008 11:08 AM  
Blogger William A. Allen III said...

Charlene,

Interesting strategy. And, yes, I agree that sometimes aisle and window people will BOTH give up the arm rest adjacent to the middle seat--perhaps out of pity! I know I often do.

Thanks for sharing.

Will

1/18/2008 11:12 AM  

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