A better brand of business travel

Lucy Kellaway

TEXT OF STORY

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Winter storms in the Mid-West and Northeast this week have created headaches for a number of airlines like JetBlue and Delta. Together both airlines have canceled over 200 flights. Newark Airport and O'Hare in Chicago have also had to scratch flights due to the weather. It makes you wonder how or why some people travel for business. You could make a list of the frustrations: canceled or delayed flights, bad food, exhaustion and jetlag. But Commentator Lucy Kellaway thinks she's come up with a better way to fly.


LUCY KELLAWAY: Why does the average executive spend 35 days a year traveling?

Partly, it's a matter of status. It makes a person feel important to say, "I'm in Tokyo on Friday, then in Bangalore next week." I suppose it's also nice being handed a glass of champagne, and even nicer getting air miles.

Yet I suspect there's a bigger reason that people don't usually talk about.

Business travel is an escape. An escape from home, but more important, it is an escape from the office.

Office life has become a dysfunctional mess of meetings and interruptions. So, a high-flying executive's best hope for a decent day's work is in a metal chamber 30,000 feet above the world's surface.

This thought gives me an idea for a great new business. It's to start a virtual airline.

Here's how it would work: The passenger would book into a "flight" of whatever length they liked. They would then turn up at a convenient, comfortable location in the city where they live. There would be no traffic jams to the airport, no check-ins.

They would be strapped into their chair, treated nicely and given a glass of champagne. Then they would put down their table and work.

They would only be allowed out of their seats to go to the toilet. They would have their cell phones taken away when they "boarded." They could video-conference if they needed to talk to a colleague.

The saving in costs would be prodigious. There would be no expensive ticket to cover jet fuel, no jet lag, no flight delays, and no chance of being blown up mid-air.

And the traveler, if they wanted to, could still pretend they had really been to, say, Tokyo.

I suspect were this service really to take off, to pick a singularly inappropriate metaphor, it would become the only way to fly.

THOMAS: Lucy Kellaway is management columnist for the Financial Times.

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