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David J. Danto
Business travel thoughts in my own, personal opinion
eMail: ddanto@IMCCA.org <![if !vml]><![endif]>Follow Industry News: @NJDavidD
Barcelona On Business – The 2nd Time’s The Charm – February 2023
<![if !vml]><![endif]>I just flew back from Barcelona and… well, I won’t finish the joke, but it is a good point – all of me is tired. I just attended one of the bigger industry conferences there (Integrated Systems Europe – ISE2023.) The Fira Barcelona, Gran Via hosts a number of large ones – including this one and the Mobile World Congress that follows it. My first ever trip to Barcelona on business was last year. I learned so much from it that this year’s trip was tremendously better – nothing beats experience. I made adjustments that made my week a breeze.
First of all, this time, I picked a close hotel. I stayed at the Hampton by Hilton that is directly across the street from the Fira. What an awesome choice it was. The staff at the property was available for me by email multiple times in advance of my arrival. (Thanks very much to Adrián Magno, their front office manager, who coordinated some special requests for me and had a room ready upon my morning arrival.) While it is certainly not a luxury property, the Hampton is clean and modern and has a tremendous free breakfast spread. But mostly IT IS ACROSS THE FREAKING STREET! While everyone else was waiting in a one hour plus taxi line at the end of the day or schlepping to public transportation after ten hours of already being on their feet, I crossed the street and took the lift right up to my room.
The Fira Barcelona, Gran Via as seen from my hotel room window
That convenience set the tone for me for the entire trip. Granted I wasn’t in walking distance to the best restaurants and tourist sites in Barcelona, but that was never the point of this trip. There were a couple of nice restaurants nearby, a pretty decent bakery and coffee shop, and a McDonalds for those able to tolerate fast food, so no one will ever starve staying there. It was also a ten minute taxi ride from the airport, so costs for the trip were also cut way down from my last time here.
The air travel into and out of Barcelona was also easier – both due to my experience and the easing of COVID restrictions. No pre-testing or proof of vaccinations were required this time for entry or exit. (Of course, that made me wear my N95 mask even tighter on both flights.) I was also experienced enough to know getting to the Barcelona airport earlier than needed for my flight home was a waste of time. My 11am flight had the United check-in team first manning their kiosks at 8:15 am. Any thought of clearing security early so I could take my time shopping-around the Duty Free areas was put out of my mind when I remembered the ~2 hour wait for the empty desks to get staffed last time. Showing up at 7:30 had me third in the Premier Access line. Also, I remembered at the last minute that United’s Premier Access (Star Alliance Gold) gave me access to the preferred security – fast-track entrance – one of the few perks United hasn’t stripped from their million milers (yet.)
Speaking of United, both my flight there and the one returning home were on non-stop 767-400s with no Premium Economy section – just Polaris First and Economy (with E+ and regular pitch seats.) I had put in (20K miles and a few hundred bucks) for a Polaris upgrade there, but of course, as a million miler unconscionably forced down to Gold (as we all were – see my last blog) I was in the twenties on the waitlist for the nine seats available. On the flight home my travel agent actually had an expiring free-upgrade instrument that they gave to me at no cost, but again, I was nineteenth for the six available seats. The downgrade of Million Miler from Premier Executive (now Platinum) to Gold essentially means never being upgraded – not what I was promised when I flew my butt-off for 1.4 million miles.
The meals going there were the typical United inedible garbage. A “Buttered Chicken” dish was actually chicken and rice slathered in a spicy curry sauce – which I simply can’t tolerate, and which I noticed resulted in most trays returned to the crew still full. Inexplicably, the flight home had a perfectly good tortellini dish, and then a warmed turkey and cheese sandwich as a snack before landing. (United must have forgotten to communicate to the caterers in Spain to make the meals too spicy to ingest.)
We landed at EWR at terminal B this time. The International Arrivals hall was interesting as every kiosk now uses facial recognition, and Global Entry was no exception. Interestingly (and stupidly) after being scanned at a Global Entry station, one then has to get into a far-too-long line to see a single agent to look up your scan and say “OK” as they eventually let you pass. There has to be a better solution than a single agent bottleneck for what is supposed to be a fast exit from the airport.
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After a rough 2022 for me health wise I’m happy to report that I’m back on the road and building my strength back every day. A week in Barcelona was not a problem. Of course I get tired more quickly, but the more I exercise and travel the more my stamina will return to past norms. I get to stay home for a couple of weeks now before my next international travel to Canada’s capital – closer but colder than Spain.
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.
Copyright 2023 David Danto
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