David J. Danto
Principal Consultant, Collaboration/ AV / Multimedia / Video / UC
Director of Emerging Technology
Interactive Multimedia & Collaborative Communications Alliance
As Good As It Gets?
I just got back home from a two day business trip. I had to visit a client in Florida for a day and a half. This is just the sort of overnight trip that I’ve taken hundreds if not thousands of times before in my nearly four decade career. Everything went great with the client – so the purpose of the trip was 100% achieved. It’s the logistics of the travel I’m not quite sure about. Things went OK – no irrops or cancellations and even an upgrade - but all-in-all, everything still … well … “sucked” if I had to pick a word for it. Regrettably I’m forced to look at the sad possibility that in today’s business travel world, in the words of that old Jack Nicholson movie, this may be as good as it gets. Is “sucks” our new normal?
Let’s start with the destination. I had to fly from Newark to Ft. Lauderdale to inspect some sites, attend an all-day meeting the next day, then head home in the evening. No dice. There are three non-stop flights from FT. Lauderdale to Newark and the last one departs at 2:30pm. I’d never be done that early. So I had to pick an alternate airport with more service (Miami) and use that as the destination. It only adds a 45 minute drive each way. No big deal, right? Well … I don’t know. There was an airport 10 minutes from where I had to be and I couldn’t use it. Airlines that used to fly there stopped because the flights weren’t full enough to keep the ticket prices high. Is flying to alternate airports the best business travelers are going to be able to experience going forward?
When I was at Newark airport I noticed a new, pretty light display being installed above what used to be a food court (and is now an ‘upscale European dining experience’):
Instead of fixing the broken escalators or repairing the bathroom paper towel dispensers or making any actual improvements that would impact business travelers, money is being wasted on decorative lights. I like art as much as the next guy, but I think the escalators are a higher priority. None of the money being spent at EWR helps the passengers – it all goes to raise prices and/or add places where miles or money can be collected.
And the NY NJ Port Authority was quick to point out in a tweet that it wasn’t their money being spent on this stuff. Is the ‘upscaling’ of convenience food so it can be priced into the stratosphere the only airport improvements business travelers are going to be able to expect going forward?
My actual flight down was relatively painless, but then after arriving one has to get through MIA airport to the MIA Mover (tram) to get a rental car. In order to get to the Mover one has to walk long, hot corridors between terminals. Thankfully, there are moving walkways there. Sadly, I’ve never been to this airport when all of the moving walkways were actually working. This trip was no exception, with two of the four sections I had to use out of order. (I’d bet a week’s salary that they can’t get parts anymore and just move the working motors around to make it look like things are being fixed - but schvitzing and schlepping isn’t even the worst part about this airport – I’ll get to that later.) Is constantly dealing with broken walkways, elevators and escalators at US airports the best business travelers are going to be able to experience going forward?
I picked-up my car from National at MIA – which was the one bright spot of this whole trip. They gave me a bottle of cold water while they brought around one of the car makes I asked for – because it wasn’t on their “aisle.” Top notch service from this team. It didn’t make the rush hour drive up to Ft. Lauderdale any more pleasant though. Three major accidents turned the 40 minute trip into a 90 minute trip. So much for alternate airports being easy.
I left before rush hour to avoid the mess on the roads on the trip back the next day – which worked for the most part – and got to the airport in plenty of time. Kudos again to the National Car team, where the agent actually took my carry-on bag out of the trunk for me while I was still in the car organizing my briefcase. After taking the Mover and schlepping past the broken walkways again I found myself at the entrance to the MIA G gates. Much to my delight, there was a TSA Pre-Check lane. Regrettably however, it snakes around to the right and joins right-up with the lane that snakes around to the left without Pre-Check. Instead of Pre-Check, I got this card:
How can the TSA call it Pre-Check, but then not offer the same services and benefits as they do at Pre-Check lanes elsewhere? If the TSA is acknowledging that I earned Pre-Check because I paid for the advance screening and am not a threat, why can’t they let me have the stated benefits of that program? The only, completely illogical answer is because I’m at MIA G gates, where the normal rules don’t apply. Is constantly dealing with the bait-and-switch rules from the TSA at US airports the best business travelers are going to be able to experience going forward?
After I made it through security I was notified that I actually received a complimentary Premier upgrade from United for my flight home. Usually being a united elite traveler only means we make the upgrade list, not actually get one. (Really – just hang around any line in the boarding group 1 and 2 lanes for any United flight and listen to their best customers joke about what number they were on the upgrade list. ‘You were thirteen? I was only twenty-seven.’) Scoring an upgrade is big news…I don’t have to buy food at MIA (which in G is either a greasy pizza or a soggy sandwich) and I’ll have a roomier, comfortable seat. The inbound aircraft was late (of course) and after announcing boarding had started the agents kept us standing around for an extra 15 minutes without the courtesy of telling us why (of course) but then we boarded and I got my first class seat. Except, it wouldn’t stay up – it kept reclining on its own. I didn’t want to tell the flight attendant till we were airborne lest we delay the trip even further, so I just dealt with it. After we finally started taxiing the lead agent announced that we should watch the monitors for the safety video…but it was actually a Freudian slip – apparently the monitors on this 737-700 stopped working a while ago and no one ever bothered fixing them. The demonstration was done by the FAs in the aisles. Then a short while into the flight I was asked if I wanted the dinner. “Yes please,” I said. I was asked if I wanted the vegan polenta or the jambalaya. Huh? In what typical American restaurant are those two choices popular enough for most people to want them on a regular basis? What ever happened to a nice piece of beef or chicken or some pasta with a terrific sauce that can be left off if people can’t eat spicy foods? The picture below sums up my first class experience on this flight:
A tilted chair looking at a broken display with a tray holding a wilted, mildewed salad, and an inedible main course. Is rarely getting upgrades and then not getting any value out of them the best business travelers are going to be able to experience going forward?
Has airline company greed finally pushed the new normal to being thankful that you actually made it alive? Can we business travelers just never expect things to get any better anymore? Is this as good as it gets?
This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions.
All image and links provided above as reference under prevailing fair use statutes.