There has been a lot written on just how arduous air travel can be nowadays. I certainly experienced a few challenges myself having racked up almost 14,000 air miles in April (including an overnight stay on three chairs at Gate B29 in Atlanta airport).
It still fascinates me to watch fellow travelers disintegrate into a sputtering rage when encountering any of the myriad of problems that can and do occur on a daily basis. How can there NOT be problems with 4.7 BILLION passengers flying in 2010 (up 6.3% from 2009, even with the volcanic ash cloud that virtually shut down air travel in Europe last spring).
Last Wednesday, as a raging thunderstorm swirled around Atlanta (part of the same storm system that resulted in the devastating tornados in Mississippi), I watched someone on my Atlanta-St. Louis flight have a total meltdown with the gate agent due to our flight being delayed again and again (before finally being cancelled at 1:30 in the morning).
You may be asking yourself: What does this have to do with the Management issues I usually tackle in my blog? Business travel can be a part of the management experience, particularly as you move up in the corporate world. Accept that you WILL experience challenges when you fly; from something as “simple” as no room in the overhead bins for your bag to flights being delayed or canceled. However, I’ve found a few simple things can help ease tension when air travel goes wrong:
Be reasonable when dealing with airline staff. Does this mean you shouldn’t complain? Absolutely not; jump in and voice your displeasure. But remember you don’t want to give yourself a heart attack because you’ve been rerouted through a different airport in the opposite direction. It’s not worth taking years off your life!
Tune out. Bring earplugs or earphones to tune out anyone having a meltdown (it’s not just the kids throwing tantrums these days). Find a quiet corner to send emails, conduct research or read, away from other stressed out travelers.
Get status. It’s worth it to stick with one airline to eventually gain some sort of status, meaning shorter security lines and shorter boarding lines. Unfortunately, as anyone who travels a lot knows, upgrades are typically only available to those with a VERY high status (such as Platinum or 1K members), but it does allow you to book exit row seats or seats closer to the front of the plane (always a bonus when deplaning). Status on some airlines also provides discounted pricing for same-day Lounge access which can be invaluable during a delay.
Finally, do whatever you have to do to relax. Have a snack, catch a snooze, call that friend you haven’t spoken to in ages, do yoga….do whatever it takes to calm yourself down. And when all else fails? I find after my 4th Grey Goose & soda, I forget my irritation entirely…..
Check back in our next blog for information on practicing positive Office Politics.