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    Entries in travel (25)


    Notes from the road #14 - Things seen and (over)heard

    The better part of the last two weeks on the road as always provides a rich source of amusement. 

    Herewith, presented in no particular order, are 5 random observations from the road...

    1. Overheard in the Delta Sky Club - 'Tell him to take his head and pull it out of his ass.  If he can't do that, then fire him. I SAID FIRE HIM!'

    2. Also overheard in the Delta Sky Club - 'The last four guys who quit have told HR in their exit interviews that the demands of the job are unreasonable. That it total BS. No, I can't meet with you tomorrow. I have a meeting with HR.'

    3. Also overheard in the Delta Sky Club - 'No I have not hired anyone for Japan yet. They keep sending me crap candidates. The last one didn't know that Osaka is not the same as Okinawa.'

    4. If there is a major spill of liquids or such in an airport corridor, the sheer number of folks that get involved is staggering. Retail workers, airport staff, private security, Metro Police, cleaners, other kinds of maintenance people, etc. I saw a pretty large spill of water in the Cleveland airport, (one of those 5-gallon water jugs blew out), and no less than 9 different people had some involvement in the reporting, cleanup, and assigning blame processes. 

    5. If I ever do another 'Ignite' style presentation (20 slides, 15 seconds per slide), I will absolutely not try to tackle as big a subject as Humanity's relationship with technology. I did think the 5 minute talk went well, but as is my typical fashion, I could have gone on for another 45.  But DisruptHR Cleveland was a blast.

    Have a great weekend!


    Notes from the road #12 - On helping each other

    On the road this morning on the way down to the Brandon Hall Group's Excellence 2015 Conference where I am pleased and honored to be a participant tomorrow in a panel discussion on HR, data, and analytics. Hopefully, I will also talk about basketball, craps, and Lucha Libre, (which are all relevant to the HR and analytics discussions, trust me on that).

    Today's Notes from the Road dispatch involves one of the most simple, yet increasingly infuriating elements of modern business travel - the airplane boarding process. As most regular or even occasional travelers know, boarding planes these days is some kind of hellish mix of mosh pit, confusion, violations of personal space norms, and utter despair. Boarding planes today is a test of patience for sure. People crowd the gate area the second that they get a sniff that boarding is about to begin, the folks in first class (me too sometimes), jockey for space in the 'preferred' line, and once on the plane, lots of fighting for limited overhead storage space for bags ensues. The advent of checked bag fees has made the 'I don't care how large it is, I am not checking this bag' mentality even more prevalent.

    So that was the context in which I boarded the 6:00AM flight today. Boarding just in front of me was an older lady, probably about 70 or so, who was clearly struggling with her bags as she made her way down the jetway and onto the plane. She had taken advantage of the call for pre-boarding to take a little extra time to board. About half way down the jetway it became clear to me that she was going to have some issues actually hoisting her bags up to the overhead. By the time I caught up with her, we were just inside the plane and I offered to assist her (since I am of course a consummate gentleman), in carrying her bags on to the plane and then up to the overhead bin. And so I did, and once making sure she was situated and seated, I headed back up the aisle (to my seat in Row 1, thanks Delta), and sat down.

    Later, once the flight had commenced, and the flight attendant in First Class came round to take drink orders she stopped to thank me for helping the aforementioned older lady with her bags. I thought it kind of odd that the flight attendant even noticed, and just stammered 'Thank you'. It was not really that big of a deal. The older lady clearly needed some help. I am (thankfully), still able to lift relatively heavy objects off of the ground, so I helped her. This is not that big a deal.

    But the fact that the flight attendant made a point to mention it to me once we took off, at least 30 minutes later, kind of struck me as a little unusual. Like it must have been unusual to her, like maybe she doesn't see people helping each other all that often.

    Which, if true, is kind of sad. 

    It is hard out there. Especially for older folks, or people who don't travel all that often, or for people that are just a little nervous about the entire experience of airports and planes and TSA and everything else.

    It is pretty hard out there sometimes. And it is pretty easy to help out. And to be kind.

    Happy Wednesday.


    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!