David J. Danto
Business travel thoughts in my own, personal opinion
Rain Rain Go Away – May 2023
The forecast for this weekend calls for rain. I have an awesome new set of noise cancelling earbud headphones (whose case works as a transmitter for IFE systems) for use on my international flight this weekend, but with all the awesome things it does it can’t stop the rain. The aircraft I’m flying is one of the newest Boeing Dreamliners equipped with all the latest safety features, but it also can’t stop the rain. We’ve made literally decades of technological and safety improvements to air travel, but when it comes to weather, we’re just as captive to mother nature as we were when commercial air travel began in 1914.
These are the ideas that pervade my thinking as I prepare for a few weeks away in Europe on business and then vacation. We are no more capable of preparing for a storm than we were when our parents and grandparents chanted “rain, rain go away, come again some other day…” To a decent extent we are even less prepared than before. Our luggage is now typically soft sided cases – much more likely to get soaked (and soak through to the contents) than the heavier hard suitcases that were more popular before. Most of our airports are now supporting overloaded flight slots that are pure fantasy – unlikely to be achieved in crystal clear weather, ridiculous in even slightly cloudy conditions, and laughable during rain and storms.
Weather also happens to be the great economic equalizer. The first-class passenger is no more capable of taking-off on time than the poor idiot that purchased the stripped-down joke of basic economy. No matter who you are or what you paid you just have to wait it out like the rest of us. During one legendary shut-down of Heathrow Airport in December 2010 I’ll never forget how business class passengers that waited at the airport all day were told to go to a new gate in the evening, where they were handed printed letters that essentially said ‘go home, the airport is closing now.’ At the same time, coach passengers were told to wait at the departure gate, and were then just told the exact same thing as a public address announcement. The weather doesn’t care how much money you spent on your ticket, you have in the bank or have in your wallet or purse. (Of course, the Heathrow debacle was more about the airport crew reacting to a brief storm too slowly to prevent the snow from icing up, killing four days instead of one hour, but that’s a completely different story.)
It's difficult for someone like me that makes their living swimming in emerging technology to come to terms with the helplessness of watching the weather forecasts. I’m an extreme preparer – someone who understands that the back-up device or plan and the emergency-use device or plan are actually two completely different things (and you need both.) However, there is no amount of preparing I can do here short of making sure I’m traveling with the appropriate jacket with a hood.
Sometimes in these circumstances I can reschedule to leave before a storm hits or after it passes, but those are not options here. In this case my schedule has some pad if I arrive late, but not enough to change to different flights…and the weather doesn’t look that much better for two days before or after. I’m completely at the mercy of mother nature this time.
As I ruminate about my situation and how screwed I likely am, I just can’t wait for the inevitable comment from a friend or family member about how ‘…I shouldn’t worry…’ because ‘…airlines prioritize international travel…’ Gee, thanks – that hadn’t occurred to me until you mentioned it... Add to that the inevitable email from my company’s security team (the one that just arrived as I type this) about how I should anticipate disruptions at my destination due to strikes, protests, holidays, birthdays, bar-mitzvahs, whatever. I never get an email from this group saying “don’t worry, everything little thing will be all right.” It’s doom and gloom every time, all the time.
It's also very frustrating that it’s not a blizzard or nor-easter being predicted – not something that will have the airline or airport proactively shut down or cancelled or rescheduled in advance. No, that’d be somewhat easier. This one is a case where I’ll have to do my regular pre-departure things – eating, medicine, clothes, airport arrival, etc. only to be waiting at the airport for what will likely be very late word that the flight will depart on-time, depart late or be cancelled. And in the very likely case that we will at least be delayed, it will probably be in ten-to-fifteen-minute increments spoon-fed to us for hours. Somehow the airlines think that’s better than coming right out and saying we have a four-hour delay. We’re not even given the opportunity to plan an alternate good use of the time.
So ultimately, there is really nothing I can do to help me in the face of potential bad weather other than to write a blog to help pass the time until I know if I’m screwed and if so, how badly….and of course, I can chant……
(As I said at the end of my last blog, but this time adding the proviso that if I actually leave) in the next few weeks my travels will take me to parts of Europe where I’ve never been before. I’ll share as many of the worthwhile highlights as I can when I get back.
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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