Facing late flights, lost luggage, overbooked flights and tedious security procedures where many have to all but undress, the weary business travelers plod on.
While they may not like it, business travelers are likely to spend the same amount of time or more in the air over the next year.
In a global survey we conducted a few weeks ago, 87 percent of senior executives and managers said they plan to travel the same amount or more over the next 12 months, compared to the last 12. Thirty-five percent said they planned to travel more, and six percent said it would be significantly more.
Only 13 percent said they plan to travel less over the next year. Which leads to this issue of annoyances these people face in their travels.
The number one annoyance to business travelers is delayed flights.
“The last flight I took was delayed over four hours, with no air conditioning at the terminal (while over 100 degrees outside), fire alarms firing, lights flashing,” said one survey respondent. “I left to go back home soaking wet four hours after I arrived. I felt like I was in a third-world
country. And I paid for this treatment.”
“It is the lying to passengers every 15 minutes about when a delayed flight is really going to leave that bothers me most,” said another.
What business travelers should do is identify the departure gate, and then check the arrivals schedule to see what time the plane is arriving at that gate.
Since not all airline computer systems link arrivals with departures, a departure screen may show a flight departing on time, while the arrival screen shows that the scheduled airplane for that flight is, say, an hour late.
Once the traveler adds the turn-around time for plane preparation and boarding, they can fairly accurately predict the likely departure time no matter what is said by the departure gate agent.
Most of the leading annoyances in air travel deal with time. Following delayed flights, the leading annoyances to most travelers are late departures, canceled flights and late arrivals.
“Delays and cancellations are getting worse than ever,” said one survey respondent. “I don't ever remember this many canceled flights. We are now changing our traveling plans and no longer flying to places within a four-hour drive. It’s not worth the aggravation and risk of delay.”
But annoyances go beyond the timing of flights, and range from issues dealing with the on-board experience to the events leading up to the flight.
For example, half of business travelers are annoyed by airline seating and almost as many by issues relating to baggage claim and flight boarding.
“I fly a lot,” said one respondent. “All the things that annoy me would be forgiven if once I was on the plane the attendants acted as if they liked their jobs and cared about customers. The in-flight experience is how I how I judge an airline.”
“Perhaps I don't travel enough to be annoyed by it, but my biggest problem is just the amount of space I have on the plane and the guy in front of me hell-bent on crushing my laptop,” said another.
“Air travel continues to lose its luster,” said yet another respondent. “Planes are dirty, flight attendants are surely and small, devilish children continue to kick the seat behind me.”
Said another: “The last few years travel has become a major pain for business. Most planes are fully loaded or over-booked. Business travelers are in the minority compared to vacation and non-business travel. Airlines have cut out all food and most service and their personnel have lousy customer service attitude because of the cutbacks in the industry. Many flights are delayed and the hassle of getting to and from locations makes the whole deal highly stressful.”
The good news is that there are things that are not annoying to most travelers, including online ticketing, car services, taxi lines and airline ticketing personnel.
“I love online ticketing, seating and check-in,” said one manager. “To me, the root problem is overbooking, and it's compounded by lean-and-mean staffing throughout the system.”
Despite all the annoyances, air travel is going up, not down, for businesspeople. The annoyances are now becoming part of each trip.