For better or for worse, I’m back on the business travel route. And, my friends, let me tell you, it’s miserable out there these days.
Here are some problems that my friends and I have encountered – and what you can do to avoid them.
First, remember that COVID-19 continues to be an issue. At my last conference, three of the main leaders of the organization accepted it immediately after their arrival. Organizationally, they managed to juggle all their tasks — but for a moment I thought I’d end up introducing keynote speakers!
(Fortunately for all, it didn’t come to that.)
It’s important to be well organized when traveling, so if you or a member of your crew get sick, you can carry on.
And it’s wise to bring a COVID test with you to make sure any sore throats, sneezes, or anything that’s just allergies and not the virus.
I always carry a minimum of two tests with me now; convention hotels don’t seem to keep them in stock.
Another major headache is that you cannot rely on flights to get to your destination on time. Or not even at all!
Of the last three events I have attended, hundreds of flights have been delayed for over three hours. And I knew dozens at each event whose flights were outright canceled or so late they didn’t bother to show up.
Flight cancellations and delays have become an epidemic.
During over the weekend of Father’s Day and June 16, 3,000 flights were canceled and more than 19,000 retarded. Ironically, even US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg had a flight canceled after a meeting of airline executives last month. So he had to drive to New York from DC
What’s going on? It’s a ugly combination of not enough airline staff, too few airline screeners – and COVID-19.
This shouldn’t improve anytime soon.
While airlines and the FAA bicker over who should bear the blame, travelers just want to get to their destination.
What can you do? First, make your reservations as early in the day as possible.
Airline issues tend to snowball as the day goes on. But, with luck, you’ll get to your destination before trouble catches up with you.
A corollary to this is to avoid tight connections.
An airline’s automated system gave me a flight with a 45 minute gap between segments. With delays everywhere, there’s no way I’m going to risk missing that tight connection.
If possible, book a direct flight.
For example, if you live in a small town, you might want to drive to the nearest major airport. In fact, some people are drive seven – yes, seven – hours to avoid missed connections.
Better yet, if you have a Monday afternoon business meeting, fly out Sunday morning. Yes, you’ll end up with more hotel bills, but at least there’s a much better chance you’ll make your meeting.
Let’s say it’s the day you go to the airport. To get an idea of what you’ll be up against in the air that day, mark and check FlightAware.
In particular, the aptly named map of misery can show you what’s wrong with major airports. Of course, you also need to manually check your flight status on your airline’s website.
If there is a delay, there are a lot of reflections on your best shot.
Personally, I grit my teeth and arrive at the airport at the time originally scheduled. Why? Because you never know.
For example, if the delay is due to a ground stop for weather reasons, your flight will take off as soon as possible once clear.
If your flight is canceled altogether, don’t spend time waiting in line to speak to someone.
Use the airline’s online app or kiosk at the airport to book a flight as quickly as possible. There won’t be many seats on the alternatives, and you want the best option possible.
And when things get really bad — let’s say your next available flight won’t be for two days — try finding a ticket agent. No chance? And the airline’s call center has a wait time measured in hours? Try The Point Guy’s Recommended Ways to Get Ahead of the Phone Line.
Finally, if you have access to an air club, go for it. The reception staff may be able to assist you.
Even if they can’t, you can at least sit down, have a drink, and calmly try to think about your next move.
Even there, however, you can get in trouble.
For example, I have a lot of status at Delta. But I don’t have Diamond status; it’s high end. Recently I couldn’t get into an Atlanta Delta Sky Club because due to overcrowding they only let Diamond members in.
Let’s face it; no one is so happy these days when it comes to travel.
I suggest you take deep breaths and practice meditation. Eventually, you will arrive at your destination. Or not. Either way, you might as well relax. Stressing about it won’t help.
Being prepared will.
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