David J. Danto
Principal Consultant, Collaboration/ AV / Multimedia / Video / UC
Director of Emerging Technology
Interactive Multimedia & Collaborative Communications Alliance
First World Problems
I’m assuming by now everyone has heard the phrase first world problems – especially since the performer Weird Al Yankovic wrote a song decrying how bad it was that he couldn’t take a shower because his maid was cleaning the bathroom and had purchased too many groceries to fit in his refrigerator. That is the sort of imagery I can’t get out of my head as I contemplate a change I might be presented with. For the last few years the majority of my airline travel has been in the domestic US. A possible change in my responsibilities might reverse that trend in the near future, making the majority of my travel international.
Putting all the other (actually important) factors aside, as a lifelong frequent traveler my brain of course zones-in on the differences between international and domestic air travel. The concepts of “better” or “worse” really don’t apply, as honestly – in the current era - most air travel of any kind is terrible. But international vs domestic is definitely different.
First of all, most international airports are better than the ones in the US. It’s no wonder that no US airport even makes the list of the world’s top 10 airports. The last time I flew through Hong Kong it was not only the nicest experience I ever had at an airport, it was close to the nicest mall experience I ever had – and it’s only number four on the list. Compare this to the New York region airports I fly out of (which I’ve blogged about before.) Remember that the current US Vice-President equated landing at LaGuardia with arriving in a third world country – and he wasn’t wrong. Having my travel experiences happen at nicer facilities certainly wouldn’t be a bad thing.
And then there’s always Duty-Free Shopping – an opportunity to buy things you really don’t need at prices higher than you can usually get them for, but devoid of any taxes. What would people do without a tin Big-Ben filled with candy or inedible leaf-shaped candies made from actual maple syrup? I suppose the liquor is worth the effort to some – unless you happen to buy it or anything else in bottles in a country where the bottles are not actually allowed on the plane you’re going to fly, forcing you to throw it out. My admiration to the entrepreneur that thought-up that scam. He or she is probably the same person that came up with the idea that bringing 16.9oz bottles of water (you buy at Costco for $4 a case of 35) through security is a risk, but buying them at $4 a bottle in the airport is not. Security is of course important, but the people and firms that use it as an excuse to gouge should be punished. At the very least they should be sentenced to spend a week at LaGuardia or Newark. And interesting that when you ask Google to define gouge it uses an airline reference. But I digress….
International flying does regrettably subject the business traveler to frequent, significant waiting and hassles at customs and immigration checkpoints. Heathrow airport in the UK is one example where travelers arriving in the morning often have to wait an hour or more in a hot (amazingly regardless of the time of year) uncomfortable line to be approved for entry. Fast-track services – when you can get them as perks of a more expensive ticket – often have waits just as long. Of course, checkpoints resulting from significant overseas travel can’t be worse than those at Canadian entry-points, where families of 12 all holding grease-stained paper bags tied with twine breeze through, but any US citizen there for a brief business trip gets pulled aside for a four hour lecture on NAFTA.
Better lounges - longer waits - more frequent-flyer miles - less airlines caring about miles-flown - customs - meals served on planes again - having to eat meals served on planes again - etc., etc. I’m sure that there are more important things to consider about domestic vs. international travel, but all I can conclude about my potential first world problem is that airline travel is still awful nowadays – no matter where it is done. It’s a good thing I’m a communications and collaboration expert and can replace many potential trips with video. For me, today’s airlines are my best commercial.
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This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions. David has over three decades of experience providing problem solving leadership and innovation in media and unified communications technologies for various firms in the corporate, broadcasting and academic worlds including AT&T, Bloomberg LP, FNN, Morgan Stanley, NYU, Lehman Brothers and JP Morgan Chase. He now works with Dimension Data as their Principal Consultant for the collaboration, multimedia, video and AV disciplines. He is also the IMCCA’s Director of Emerging Technology. David can be reached at David.Danto@Dimensiondata.com or DDanto@imcca.org and his full bio and other blogs and articles can be seen at Danto.info. Please reach-out to David if you would like to discuss how he can help your organization solve problems, develop a future-proof collaboration strategy for internal use, or if you would like his help developing solid, user-focused go-to-market strategies for your collaboration product or service.
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