On December 23, 1999, I was trying to get from Madison, Wisconsin to Boston Massachusetts. On paper, it didn’t look hard. I had to catch a short fight from Madison to Chicago and another flight from Chicago to Boston. Unsurprisingly, it was snowing in Madison. It was also snowing in Chicago. Flights were canceled quickly and routinely, and crowds backed up in the gate areas. I was starting to wonder if I would make it home in time for Christmas. I finally made it back some time on Christmas Eve, but it was stressful … and yet another taxing holiday experience in what had become a blur of them.
Holiday season travel is rarely enjoyable for anyone, but it can be particularly brutal on business travelers. The pressures of family holiday obligations converge with business demands, and it all comes on the back of a full year of hitting the road, which can mean 40 weeks or more of round trips and enough miles to have nailed platinum status by the end of the second quarter. The one thing business travelers cling to is efficiency. Even if it doesn’t buy much in real impact, it feels better to get through security faster, board the plane smoothly and make a quick exit from the plane and airport upon arrival.
And holiday leisure travelers just make that exponentially more difficult.The folks who travel once or twice a year – or even less frequently than that – tend to throw a monkey wrench into the finely honed travel operations of road warriors. They fumble for documents at airport security checkpoints, take forever to order something as simple as a slice of pizza (how do you choose from both those toppings?!) After a while, the white-collar traveler, perpetually exhausted anyway, begin to hatch conspiracy theories about how leisure travelers are all in cahoots, intent on making his life miserable when all he wants to do is get home and rack open a bottle of holiday cheer.
So, let’s take a look at five ways you can annoy business travelers this holiday season. I’m not suggesting that anyone on either side of this dynamic engage in any behavior modification … because we all know that isn’t going to happen. But if you decide to try – to annoy either less or more – this is how you can go about it:
1. Your kids: I know this is a tough one. If the end-to-end air travel process is difficult for adults on a good day it’s even harder (a) during the holidays, (b) for adults with children and (c) for children. It really does suck. Do what you can, and make an honest effort. Don’t let your kid “cry it out” or practice his first step. You can give up on good parenting for a few hours without causing any lasting damage. Please try to avoid saying, “It’s only for a few hours; we don’t travel often,” to a weary business traveler.
2. Your awareness: is the airport security line moving forward without you? Do you wait until you’re at the x-ray machine to realize you need to remove your coat and shoes? You could turn around to see the eyes rolling, but that would just consume even more time. This also goes for your trip to the food court. Be ready ahead of time, or expect someone to say something.
3. Spread out: take extra seats in the gate area – for your bags or anything else. And then, let your kids play on the floor between seats, so nobody can walk by. The gate area is crowded already, and this is just a heroic way to make a bad situation worse.
4. Camp near a power outlet: it’s hard enough to find a place to plug in, and business travelers are desperate for the short supply. So, be sure to take up this prime real estate … even though you don’t plan to use it at all.
5. Sense of entitlement: assume the same sense of entitlement that road warriors have. And, I’m actually encouraging this one. Nobody really has a right to feel this way, but it is a formula for some incredible street theater!