3 Truths About Business Travel You Don’t Want to Hear
(This post originally appeared on Inc.)
I do a lot of public speaking, which means I do a lot of business travel. Not as much as some people I know, but more than most. I’m away one to two nights a week, on average. Most of my travel is within the continental U.S. Sometimes I stay in really nice hotels and resorts. Sometimes I stay in very moderate places. My travel is paid for by the organizations that hire me to speak. Because of all of this, I’ve learned a lot about business travel in the U.S. People ask me to give them travel tips all the time. “How do I save the most money?” “When’s the best time to go?” “Who’s the best airline?”
And, in the end, there are three truths about business travel. Accepting them will make the difference between a good trip and a mediocre one. But unfortunately, you’re not going to like them.
1. Shut up.
Your airline is promising to get you to your destination safely and (relatively) on time. And can we agree that the airline industry does a pretty good job at that? It’s by far the safest form of travel. And OK…you’re an hour late –but you just flew from Miami to Seattle! That would’ve taken your grandparents a year back in the day!
Sure, sometimes there are delays but mostly that’s because of weather or equipment that makes it not safe to fly, or something else that’s not in the airlines’ control. As comedian Louis CK famously said, “Uou are sitting in a chair… in the sky!!” The fact that we get drinks, movies, meals, internet access, reclining seats and even the ability to go to the bathroom while en route is all bonus.
And yes, hotels are tasked with providing you a safe and comfortable place to sleep. But if you read how John Adams and Ben Franklin used to share a bed during their journeys to Boston from Philadelphia in David McCullough’s biography of the second president, you’ll be grateful for that two-star room. Travel (and life) is not that bad… and certainly better than it was just a few hundred years ago. So shut up. Lower your expectations. Be a little more grateful.
2. Be loyal.
I’m not saying that American is the best airline around, but they pretty much own the Philadelphia airport, so I go out of my way to use them. I also belong to their frequent flier program. I pay $500 a year for their Admiral’s Club. I book my flights through their website and use their credit card, and in return, I get treated well.
When a flight gets cancelled I’m automatically rebooked on the next flight before my fellow, freaking-out passengers have had a chance to queue up in the customer service line. I frequently get upgraded. I get free drinks. I can change flights without a fee. I’m sometimes allowed to co-pilot the plane. I have priority access so I can get on and off the plane first. When I fly on another airline to take advantage of a direct flight, I’m just not treated like this. And…OK…just kidding about the co-piloting thing. For hotels, I stick with Marriott and for rental cars I’m an Avis guy. Again, I think these companies are as good as their competitors. But because of my loyalty I get quick check-ins for rooms and cars and the occasional upgrade. And of course I build up points to use for other stuff. But the points aren’t as important to me as speed. Travel is all about getting there as fast and comfortably as possible. Airlines, hotels, and rental car companies will do this for you if you’re loyal to them. Just like you do for your customers.
3. Pay up.
You don’t want to hear this. But it’s true. Do you want to drive a BMW? Then prepare to pay for it. Do you want a five-star dinner? A suite overlooking the ocean or a first- class plane ticket? It costs. In travel, just like in life, you get what you pay for. When you buy that economy ticket or bargain for a room on Priceline, you’re saving a few bucks. But the airlines and hotels know who you are. Of course, they’ll work to give you satisfactory service. But you’re not a big fish to them. Me? If I don’t get upgraded, I sometimes pay so I can get on and off a flight faster. If I’m on a long drive, I might pay for a bigger car. If I know I’m going to be somewhere for more than a night, I opt for the nicer hotel. If I can. Bargain shoppers get treated like bargain shoppers. Which is fine as long as you accept that’s the reality. And don’t get snooty about it — you know you give more attention to that customer who bought the $25,000 piece of equipment from you than the guy who spent $100 on a spare part.
The truth hurts, doesn’t it?