There isn’t a lot to be cheerful about these days – even more so when it comes to traveling on business. No doubt about it. Assuming you are even being allowed to “get on the road the duration of trips is being cut, the class of travel is being downgraded and the stars on hotels were we stay are disappearing as quickly as failed actors after the Oscars. It is a cycle of cutbacks and downgrades for the downtrodden.
We tut tut, we moan, we complain. “How on earth can I do my business when I can’t stay here? “What on earth is the boss thinking expecting me to travel economy? “Video Conference? Not as good.”
Believe me – in the past I have used every trick in the book: “I have to work when I get off the plane , “I am 6 foot 2 I can’t sit in economy. The best of course is “Economy was full .and I just had to, must, needed, to get there on that day at that time.
Let s have a bit of honesty here. Many of us travel J or F because we can. We sit in comfortable (for which read expensive) business seats because we are allowed to. And we stay in five star hotels because no-one has ever bothered to take a good hard look at the bills. Well, as we say in Britain, the Gravy Train has hit the buffers and probably about time.
Our collective hypocrisy of saying “we simply can’t cross the Atlantic in economy when paying with the corporate Amex, then crossing in economy when paying on the personal Visa, shows our duplicity. We failed to realize that, to paraphrase the former British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan, we had “never had it so good . Or in the language of the street “we were getting away with daylight robbery.
To be sure, there are those road warriors who cross oceans like others change bed linen and do need a good night’s sleep on a flat bed at 35,000 feet. These routes are the exceptions: Usually transpacific routes or journeys from Australia/Asia to Europe, where the sheer length of travel means it’s desirable to get lots of rest. But that’s really about it. I still cannot fathom how some people can justify the fivefold extra cost of Business Class on flights of 6 hours or less.
In many ways the hotel scam is even more offensive. We justify the most ridiculous nonsense staying in overpriced hotels because they are status symbols. I promise – a good three-star will give you as good-a-night’s sleep as a top five star one.(although it may bruise your ego during the night!)
If the three-star said, “Hello Mr Downgraded, how nice to see you again; always good to have you here,” and then popped a bottle of water in your room, a cheerful wave when you went to dinner and remembered your name when you checked out, I guarantee you’d be telling colleagues about that magnificent little place you’d discovered where you were treated so well.
The real problem is not we want our egos massaged on an hourly basis. Rather the travel industry has played us like a virtuoso violinist plays a Stradivarius. Elite membership of Uber-Loyalty programs, all fancily wrapped up in the lingo of precious stones and metals: Gold, Platinum, Diamond. I am pretty certain if there was value in toxic waste we would all be clamoring to be “Nuclear Level.
I can hear you grinding your teeth reading this. “Et tut Brute, you shriek. Sell-out. Traitor. C’mon I can take it all.
Of course I do have one problem. How will I deny ever writing this article once the good times have returned and I am at the front of elite check-in desk or getting lost in my five star suite? Nah easy..
Sign of the Times. Recognized my Duty. Must have been tired and overcome by recession. Clearly not thinking properly.
I may not be able to deny writing this article, but believe me, once the next Gravy Train leave the station, I will just deny I was in my right mind.
Richard Questis firmly established as an expert on business travel issues and currently works as a CNN anchor and correspondent. His regular programs include ‘CNN Business Traveler’ and in January 2009, Quest launched his own hour-long business show ‘Quest Means Business’.