David J. Danto
Business travel thoughts in my own, personal opinion
The Final NOT Traveling Blog, 3rd Week Of May 2021
David Danto’s ongoing list of disjointed and occasionally random observations and thoughts as we wait-out the pandemic – mostly NOT traveling like we used to.
On Saturday February 29th 2020 I flew to AUS to visit relatives over the weekend, then attend a company customer event that week. I rented a car, stayed at a weird/eclectic property in Austin (Lone Star Court) and flew home on March 5th. In many ways it was just another typical business trip – other than not staying at a chain property it might as well have been any of the other thousands of trips I’ve taken on the way to becoming a million miler. No one knew at the time that it would be my last trip for more than a year. The only indication I had that anything was different while on this trip was my inability to get more hand sanitizer in the local pharmacies. (I’d traveled with and carried hand sanitizer for decades.)
The pandemic has been horrific in many ways. The global death-toll is staggering, the politicizing of science is depressing, and the loss of jobs, leisure activities, socialization, etc. was disheartening. People who were too naive or weren’t paying attention thought it would end quickly. From the first days of the pandemic I’ve advised that it would take a long time to recover. I take no joy in being right, just as I took no joy in frequently pointing out that I predicted this would happen as far back as 2014.
Over the fourteen months of not traveling I’ve brought you my personal observations of the world. Those included what I perceived about the pandemic in addition to my thoughts on what travel and other firms did in response. Remember all the emails from all the CEOs saying they were going to put Safety First? Remember the Israeli mom decrying home schooling? Remember when you couldn’t get toilet paper? We’ll all likely never forget those things and so many more.
I had planned my first leisure trip after the pandemic for the end of August, but as they do sometimes, families force you to change your plans. As you read this I’ll be taking my first real flight-car-hotel trip in those fourteen months – attending a family party in Los Angeles, and then taking some leisure time right afterward. I’m very curious to see how EWR and LAX are holding up nowadays – are they still miserable experiences? I wonder if I’ll be perceiving the airport differently now that I’ve kicked club memberships to the curb, recognizing how overpriced and underwhelming they’ve become. I wonder what it will be like flying for about six hours in an N95 mask. I wonder what getting a rental car will be like during the current scarce times. I’ll be blogging about all those experiences and more as soon as I get home, so I really can’t continue a series of blogs called “Not Traveling” in good conscience.
I’ll use this final Not Traveling blog to summarize some of what I’ve learned over the last fourteen months.
· Most North American airlines are just horrible companies run by horrible people. They did all they could not to issue refunds, lied about the safety of flying during a pandemic, grabbed emergency cash from the government but yet still laid-off workers, and generally showed who they really were. As I’ve said many times, we should have let them fail and just rebuilt the industry from scratch. Instead, we shoveled billions at them…good money after bad. As others have recently put it, the airlines are Capitalists in good times and Socialists in bad times. If you haven’t already done so, stop giving any loyalty to these firms. Make each transaction for cash to gain your best value for that trip, and to hell with any false affection they try to fool you with.
· If we want to stay ahead of the game nowadays, the old rules do not apply…there are new rules. Airline loyalty is dumb, club access is unnecessary, emails/calls to travel firms for escalation rarely work. As I’ve pointed out before, use social media to get a quicker, usually more-successful response.
· As we begin traveling again, assume nothing. Did you used to pick your hotel so you could get breakfast there? Don’t assume it’s still available. Were you able to pick your preferred rental car from the lot? Don’t assume the lot has any cars. Did you have a favorite restaurant or leisure activity at one of your destinations? It may be either closed for good or just not reopened yet. Everything may be different. Either embrace the adventure or do much more research – it won’t be normal again for a long time – if ever.
· Keep in mind that the worlds of work and travel have completely changed. We now have proven that the daily commute is a typically ridiculous exercise that reduces productivity. The new rule is “be where you need to be to do what you need to do.” Need to complete an assignment? Stay home and do it in privacy, saving the time and cost of commuting. Need to meet with colleagues? Start a video call or, only if necessary, head into the now smaller offices. Need to attend a conference or event? Just go – but only if you really need to. Be an adult. Make good decisions for yourself about where you need to be at any given time. If your employer doesn’t trust you to be an adult then find a new employer. Work is what you do not where you go.
And finally, never forget that you can get a different job but not a different family. You’ll never know when that game of catch with your kids or that hug with your parents is the last one you’ll ever have. Cherish family time. That’s where you should invest your loyalty.
Expect my blogs to now come a bit less frequently (sometimes every other week instead of every week) and for them to cover a lot more traveling. As always, feel free to write and comment, question or disagree. Hearing from the traveling community was also a highlight of the pandemic for me. Thanks!
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.
The Explanation for my Not Traveling blogs: In 2014 I was voted by USA Today readers as one of the top ten business travel bloggers in the USA. Now mind you, I turned out to be number ten on the list of ten, but I did make it on (with my thanks to all those who voted.) Now that we’re all stuck at home and not traveling, I had to think about what to do with my blogs. I could stop writing them entirely – waiting till we all get through the current COVID19 pandemic / crisis. I could wax nostalgic and/or complain about past trips. Or, I could focus all of my efforts on my day job – growing the use of collaboration technologies – especially in light of how many people are now forced to use those tools for the first time. In reflecting upon those choices, what I decided to do is compile an ongoing list of observations during the crisis. Some of these may amuse, some may inform, some may sadden and others may help. My goal will be for you to have seen something in a different light than you did before you stopped to read the blog. I was going to apologize for how disjointed these thoughts may seem when put together, but then it dawned on me that feeling disjointed is our new normal – at least for a little while.