I’m sitting here in Edinburgh airport waiting for my delayed flight to London City. Due to depart at 06:35, it’s been postponed and will now has an “Est. departure 09:35” – so much for my 09:30 meeting in the City.
Sometimes when things don’t go according to plan, you realise how precarious a lot of things are:
- go to bed early (leaving wife with screaming kid who won’t sleep)
- wake up at half three to drive the 1 hour journey to the airport
- arrive at airport on time for huge queues at security
- arrive at gate to be informed that your flight is delayed…
- wait around, make plans to call ahead to cancel meetings for the day
That’s basically what I have going on right now – severe weather in London means I needlessly woke up early today (and I do love my sleep) and will (after this period of forced leisure) have a hectic rest of the day in London.
It makes you wonder what it’s all about…
If you do travel for business or work, you’ll know how it can be quite nice – for one, you don’t have to spend a penny of your own money!!! you can travel to new places, eat new and exciting too, meeting people, drink as much coffee as your like, stay in fancy hotels and go first class (trains only).
You can also earn some Miaow Miaow beans – like frequent flyer points – to make your journey worthwhile. My flight was delayed a couple of hours but hey – I got 250 Avios!!! Woo Hoo!!!
The reality is that business travel is not that great and much of the allure quickly wears off. 90% of your time is spent being unproductive – if the productive part of the trip is meeting people and talking business with them. Often the people you meet with are people you would not want to be friends with in the real world (maybe it’s my line of business) or there are people who have a connection with but you’ll never become friends and have their kids come over to play with your kids while you share a beer in the kitchen whilst cooking a big family meal.
Business travel is tiring – and it’s not just the early starts or late nights (although GFF has the strict policy of no alcohol when working), it’s the highs and lows of the day. I genuinely love preparing for a meeting, working out what the other person wants to hear or may be thinking of what they might want/need and engaging with them, presenting, talking, showing, explaining, bargaining, begging, joking, shouting, laughing and trying to weasel as much information out of them as possible to allow me to do my job better this time and next time.
I find that the rush of the meeting is followed by the crash of afterwards. When I finally get out of their office and check into the hotel and into my hotel room – I’m deflated. I miss my family, miss my wife and kids – think of what they are doing without me and feel lonely, sad and a bit depressed. Not to worry – I need to write up my notes for the day, answer about a hundred emails and prepare for tomorrow – not forgetting ironing a shirt for the morning and the joy of finding somewhere to eat and I might want a nap after being up for 16 hours!
Business travel does allow a bit of culinary adventure. I travel mostly to London and Holland but in both places, you can get any cuisine you like. My favourite is middle eastern (think houmous, flat breads, babaganoush, vine leaves and lots of yummy yummy lamb!) and there’s a shortage of non-kebab/takeaway middle eastern restaurants where we live, so getting the chance to eat out when I’m away is good. The main problem is that I can be so shattered from the day that I just order disappointing room service instead.
Business travel rewards
Back on the topic of business travel and Loyalty rewards:
I am a member of any number of loyalty schemes and there is a good reason for doing so. Whilst loyalty is a good quality in a dog, as a consumer it is not to much, my disloyalty has benefited me greatly over the years. But you should never let the bonus tail wag the spending dog! I stayed a number of nights last year with IHG – International Hotel Group – for work and was collecting points. I didn’t stay with them for a few months and I was informed that my many thousands of points would expire if I didn’t use them. Now, I had thousands and thousands and my company had paid lots of money for the hotel rooms. When I went to see what I could spend the points on, I could almost book one of their worst hotels at a point way way off in the future at a time that was inconvenient to us. Instead I opted for a £10 M&S voucher.
The funny thing about my flight being delayed was that it exposes a lot about human behaviour. Throw us a little off balance and we all seem to fall over. The picture here is of Departure Gate 5, closed for the postponed 06:35 BA flight to London City Airport. The queue on the left is people trying to get on the non-existent departure or asking about what their options are (wait, or wait or go home) and the queue on the right is for the BA executive lounge. Now, I’m only a measly Blue level Executive Club member with BA and I don’t get access the hallowed halls of the Executive. I could have probably joined the queue to get in – but I’m not a queuer (it’s a rather British phenomenon) and having been in these lounges a few times, I think that all the prestige is in knowing that the hoi-poloi are kept outside. Sometimes they do let in some of the riff-raff and you know who they are straight-away – piling their plates full of cocktail sausages, crisps, miniature burgers and as much free booze as they can get away with! But take it from me, once you’ve have the once unobtainable becomes unavoidable, you no longer desire it – I think the Dalai Lama said that – but he travels by private jet, so what does he know anyway.
So, I’m still here, my morning is running away and I’m no closer to deparure (now estimated at 09:35, two hours late). At least I miss the rush hour crush on the DLR.
I had a think about what I’m doing here and why I’m waking up early. The natural thing to do for me is to wake up early, drive for an hour to the airport, park up, check in and fly on the first departure to London. On my way back from my travels, I arrive, get in my car and drive home. It’s all quite intense as I want to get home as soon as possible.
For the future, I will look at getting the night train to London which leaves around 11pm from where I live – the station is around 20 minutes walk (and that’s 20 minutes exercise) and arrives into London around 8am. That’s as good as any flight and a private room is about £200 one way. Which is not a bad price if you ask me since it avoids 120 miles of driving, about £50 in parking charges and BA is often not much cheaper than this. On my way back, the Edinburgh Tram and Scotrail trains will get me from the terminal to the railway station in just over 90 minutes – not a huge difference compared with driving and taking the train back (first class) is a lot less stress than driving. Getting the train all the way back is also an option or flying to our local airport (but flights depart from Stansted and get in quite late at 20:45). There’s also much lower CO2 footprint with getting the train and I can only imagine that waking up in London relaxed, refreshed and rested is much better than how I feel right now!!!
Finally, the best thing about business travel?
For me it’s all about coming home. There’s nothing quite like being away from the people that you love that makes you love them even more. You can learn to appreciate them much better and in the space of only a few hours together, get a clearer idea of why they mean so much and what it means to be family. So that’s the best thing about business travel and the feeling of being homeward bound is something that puts a big smile on my face.
As much as business travel has some pros, many cons, it’s something that I need to do at the moment and the costs are paid mostly by those I leave behind, my wife and kids. But with a clear Ready, Aim, Fire road map and a picture of where we want to be, it’s worth some sacrifice now for the pay-off down the line.
Safe travels everyone one! GFF
Update from the hotel:
Managed to finally take off – 5 hours later than planned and I’m now in my hotel. 2 of my 3 meetings cancelled and it was pissing down in London. I’ll maybe die from the gripp that I have – but at least it was a relatively stress-free day. Had some great Iraqi food for dinner. Family are sick back home which is not good. Regarding travel; as Garfield “Whoever said, ‘Getting there is half the fun,’ should be drug out into the street and shot!”