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    Entries in travel (8)


    Notes from the road #12 - Heading to #HRTechConf Edition

    Random observations, thoughts, and disposable commentary from yesterday's journey out to Las Vegas for this week's HR Technology Conference...

    1. If you want to save your company or yourself a few bucks on air travel, (and most of either have to or want to do this), you either have to fly really early, (6AM), really late (hello red eye back from the West Coast), or sit around for hours and hours on a layover in places like Detroit or Chicago. Note, I am drafting up at least the start of this post about 60 minutes in to a 3-hour layover in Detroit).

    2. If you fly say about once per month or more, and generally stick with the same airline, then it is definitely worth the $500 or so to buy a airline club membership for the year. I know it sounds like a lot of coin for what you think will only be a few random hours here and there when you'd actually use the club but you would be wrong. Food, drinks, free wifi, clean bathrooms, drinks, (did I say that already?), agents at the front desk that can actually help you, and a relatively calm and quiet place to wait out layovers and delays. The very first time you use the club after buying in you will be kicking yourself for not doing it sooner. Trust me on this.

    3. From the 'I can't believe this is happening' department, in recent weeks I have had delayed flights for two different reasons that in two decades or so of travel I had never had happen before. In the first, we could not leave until the on board oxygen canister was recharged, (it had been used to give some O2 to a nervous passenger during boarding). In the second, the plane was not able to depart because it had been over-fueled and some indeterminate amount of Jet A had to be siphoned out. I have no idea how they actually do the siphoning, but it takes an ETERNITY to do. 

    4. Detroit airport has the only (that I have ever seen), food concession that sells pretty much exclusively peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. This may sound like not that big a deal, but if you have someone in your family with a peanut/nut allergy (as I do), then finding places to get a little bit of a PB&J fix is a VERY important thing. I hope my son is not reading this right now.  But I miss PB&J...

    5. No one reads in airports or on planes any more. You are either pounding away on Email (most of the sad-looking middle-aged guys in first class and in the Sky Club), or are cruising Facebook on a tablet, (pretty much everyone else). It seems to me from my very unscientific observations that older women, (think 50+) are the most enthusiastic Facebook users. It's like Facebook has given validation and opportunity for them to be all up in the details of everyone's business (like they always wanted to be, but used to require more effort). I am 95% done with Facebook by the way. I am on Ello though. That I like. Until the big corporations ruin it.

    6. Ok, I am out for now. Need to score that PB&J before my flight out to Vegas. If you are heading to HR Tech, please be sure to say Hi. I would love to meet some folks who read the blog.

    Have a great week!


    Notes from the road #11 - We're not going anywhere edition

    Submitting this dispatch to the Notes from the Road series from another Delta Sky Club at a ridiculously early hour. 

    Short story - Weather/air traffic control/mandated pilot rest period (or some combination of, we never really got a full and/or definitive story), caused cancellation of a bucketful of late night flights heading out of NYC last evening, including the one your humble correspondent had boarded and had been patiently waiting on for about 3 hours before No Joy was called. Nothing like a planeful of angry passengers who, at about 1:00 AM, get informed that they are not, in fact, going to make it home at all after such a long delay, and had better scramble to make alternate arrangements or prepare to sleep in the airport.

    Good times.

    Me being the smart and savvy frequent traveler that I am, managed to book the best available alternative flights home, (and I do mean flights, I will enjoy flying about 300 miles past where I actually live, in order to get on another flight to come back). I then pulled some Elite Status traveler magic (or so I thought) to get a room at the closest hotel to the airport, figuring I could get about 4 hours of decent sleep before coming back in the morning. Only when I arrived at said hotel did I find that no, there were no rooms at all available, and the reservation the nice man on the Elite phone line made for me was actually for TONIGHT and not last night (which had already turned into today, as it was about 1:45 AM when this was all happening).

    So now who was the savvy traveler?

    Not me. Now I was looking at only about 3.5 hours or so I had to kill before heading back to the airport, sitting in a deserted hotel lobby that had no room for me, (except on the couch in the lobby where I hunkered in to ride it out), and praying that I didn't wake up and freak out from not knowing where the heck I was.

    Sure, things happen in business travel, these kind of bad nights are almost unavoidable from time to time. But there were a few customer service/training and employee empowerment kinds of things I noticed that if handled better, could have at least taken some of the sting out of the problems.

    1. I'll will try to find out is better than I don't know, which is better than the wrong answer

    I had to try and figure out, since I was switching to a different NYC departure airport, if I needed to get my checked bags back from the original plane. I think I asked 4 different airline personnel questions about how to make that happen. I basically received three 'I don't knows' and one essentially incorrect answer. Only when I pursued the line of actions that proved to be incorrect did I find out what was really happening. No one offered to actually try and help, (except for the guy who simply gave me the wrong information).

    2. Generalists are more valuable than specialists most of the time

    I think the primary reason why it was so hard to find out what the process should be for recovering my bags lies in the fact that every person I encountered had one primary role and if that role did not directly involve the baggage handling procedures, they were simply not able to offer any advice. I may have well been asking them to break down the quadratic equation or recite some sonnets. Customers can't be asked to maneuver their own way around your org structure and hierarchy when they need assistance. Having even one or two people that could reliably address a wider range of customer issues would have made everyone's lives easier last night.

    3. Different parts of the organization need to communicate more effectively

    The hotel debacle last night was pretty simple when you analyzed the cause - the agent on the phone did not back date my reservation by a day, and since it was already past midnight local time, the reservation was made for the wrong day. A bad error on his part, but sort of understandable at least. But the bigger issue was when I arrived at the hotel and the counter agent told me about the reservation problem, he added that 'This happens all the time when flights get cancelled late at night. Phone reservations keeps sending people here with a reservation for the following night'. Sure enough, two more folks after me turned up in the ensuing hour or so in the same situation. So obviously the moral here - if this happens all of the time, why can't someone at the hotel near the airport talk to someone at phone reservations to build in some kind of process to safeguard against it happening in the future? Ticking off your best customers because two parts of your organization don't know how to communicate is simply not acceptable.

    Ok, that is it - rant off for the day. Going to try and get on another plane. Hopefully this one will go a little farther than the end of the tarmac and back.

    Happy traveling.


    Notes from the road #10 - Missed Connection Edition

    Random notes from the Delta Sky Club lounge on a Saturday morning (I know, it's really glamorous and sophisticated, this business travel thing).

    1. Cargo pants stop being a good choice for men once they hit about 30. Note: I still wear cargo pants.

    2. When the airline presents you with your best 'Cheap hotels near the airport' options after you have missed the last flight out for the night don't pick the least expensive one.

    3. Two years ago it seemed every middle-aged to older woman on the plane was reading 50 Shades of Grey. Now the book I see the most is Lean In

    4. It's completely worth the $15 Uber ride from the cheap hotel back to the airport on a Saturday morning just to see the expressions on the mugs of the 38 people who are fighting for 20 places on the shuttle bus when your black car comes to pick you up.

    5. It is hard to get a decent bagel south of Maryland, and possibly even Delaware.

    6. Charleston, S.C. might be my new favorite place in the world. 

    7. Casinos and airports have at least one thing in common: folks drinking heavily at six in the morning.

    8. We as a society have become completely, totally, and almost irrationally obsessed with locating power outlets. People stuck in airports practically set up little power outlet shanty towns, complete with a mayor (the guy who carries his own power strip and doles out access to slots like he is handing out water bottles after a hurricane).

    9. I am encouraged that so many of the American traveling public now have decided to wear their 'nice' flip-flops and tank tops on the plane. You never know when a beach party might break out at 35,000 feet.

    10. Happy Mother's Day to all the Moms out there - especially the ones who have to try and navigate airports, airplanes, trains, and the like with a bunch of little ones in tow. 

    Have a great weekend!


    Notes from the road #9 - The 'Which car is in your airport?' test

    Really quick shot from me on a travel Friday - a revival of the long-dormant 'Notes from the road' travel series as I have, fittingnly, been on the road this week. For this installment I have two observations/data points and a then some questions for you.

    Observation #1 - On display in the terminal of the charming Greater Rochester (NY) International Airport (I think we have one flight a day to Toronto), was this fine vehicle:

    This is a Fiat 500


    Observation #2 - On display in the terminal of the West Palm Beach International Airport was this little beauty:

    This is a Ferrari 458 

    What does this difference in Italian sportscar display say about the two airports/cities?

    What does it make us think about what life might be like living there, (because on any trip one of the cities will not be home for you).

    If you were flying in a candidate, or if you were the candidate maybe, and she/you take off from a Ferrari city only to land in a Fiat city, would that influence the opinion, attitude about the city, and impact the likelihood that the interview would go well, and they would perhaps even take the job?

    Last one - which car(s) are sitting in your home airport right now, or which one should be there that would be a good reflection of your city?

    Have a great weekend!


    On airplane batteries and single sources of failure

    After a massive and highly public launch of the new Boeing commercial jet the 787 Dreamliner, the manufacturer and their customers have been beset with major problems, including a worldwide grounding of all 787s in service, over concerns about possible battery overheating and fire risk.

    The trouble with the 787 appears to stem from the planes' lithium-ion batteries that are used on the ground to power and recharge many of the aircraft's electronics.  Concerns about these batteries propensity to overheat and present a fire risk have led to the grounding, but there have been other 787 problems as well - ranging from a cracked cockpit windshield to oil leaks.

    Meanwhile as Boeing, their airline carrier customers, and various sub-contractors attempt to understand and resolve these problems with the batteries, a wider conversation about the safety of lithium-ion batteries, and whether or not these kinds of batteries should be allowed to be brought onto airplanes at all was breaking out. For a brief moment, it appeared that at least some major airlines, (British Airways, Cathay Pacific), were considering banning all devices with these batteries, (like your laptop, tablet, and smartphone), from their flights - both in the cargo hold as well as in carry-on bags. Both arilines have since walked back on their initial statements, and for now anyway, laptops and smartphones are still allowed as carry-on items.

    The point of all this? 

    Well just about everyone that travels for business would not dream of heading out on the road for meetings, customer visits, a trade show or a conference - without their trusty cadre of electronic assistants - almost all of them powered by lithium-ion batteries. If some or even all airlines decided to ban their presence on planes due to safety concerns, this would have a significant and disruptive affect on all business travelers. Heading out of town without a laptop or your iPhone? You would not dream of it, right?  Heck, for many people going 15 minutes without their smartphone turns them kind of nervous and twitchy.

    But to me, at least considering the idea that we can easily become over-reliant on a particular technology or tool is worth a re-visit from time to time. It is pretty likely that airlines will not ban personal electronics on their flights anytime soon, (the revenue hit would be enormous), but the possibility that a solution you've come to depend upon might not always be available to you 24/7 is much more realistic.

    Maybe you've become over-reliant on LinkedIn, or some other virtual source of information at the expense of building solid real-world networks? What if LinkedIn suddenly doubled or tripled their pro license fees? Or you're asked to recruit into a field where candidates don't even use LinkedIn?

    Perhaps you've built a long and successful career riding the back of a big, enterprise technology or architecture stack, and suddenly, and seemingly without warning, that technology is no longer in demand, and with it, your value as an 'expert' dramatically diminished?

    Or what if you've built a stable career inside an organization primarily by clinging to the status-quo, protecting the precedence of how work gets done, only to be disrupted by some combination of new technology, new people, or new leadership - most of which don't really care how much you know about what happened in the 90s?

    Sure, it is really tough to imagine (and a little unrealistic) heading out on a long business trip without our normal, and usual tools we need to conduct business, and to get things done. It seems really unlikely anyone will be faced with that any time soon. But is far more likely, and even certain, that disruption of your routine - technological, personal, organizational - is coming, and probably going to catch you unprepared.

    Here's a good exercise for that spare 10 minutes you have right now, (I know you have some time, you made it all the way to the end of this post) - think about the ONE tool or technology you rely upon the most at work, and then come up with two or three action plans if in the unlikely event that tool or technology were to become unavailable to you.

    I think there are at least two major benefits to doing this. One, if indeed you lose access to your favorite tool or tech, you have at least a starting point to go from before deciding your next move. And two, maybe just maybe you'll find a better solution or approach to the one that you swear you can't live without.