Something Not so Special in the Air: Biz Losses

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Being trapped in an airplane is a miserable experience. Being trapped in an airplane and knowing that every second you sit motionless on the tarmac represents a missed meeting, a lost client, or a wasted business opportunity is sheer torture. No one knows that sinking feeling better than the millions of American business travelers who take to the air each year, many of whom have spent this summer stuck in airports, guzzling Maalox and waiting out a record number of delays and cancelations.

According to Tuesdayís Wall Street Journal, itís not just annoying when business travelers canít make it to their destinations on time — it can be financially ruinous. Even with new video-conferencing technologies, many companies prefer to send their employees to meet clients face-to-face. That humanizing touch can be a deal-maker, but there is a risk involved: It requires employees to grit their teeth through countless airport disasters, often arriving four or five hours late at their destination hotels, and slogging through the following, critical workday on just a few hoursí sleep.

While no one knows exactly how much financial damage this summerís flight fiascos have inflicted on the nationís businesses, the emotional strain has already begun to show: Employees once slated for frequent travel have begged off their assignments and transferred to desk jobs. And although recent Congressional hearings into air traffic gridlock were useful inasmuch as they highlighted the growing problem, no one expects solutions any time soon. In the meantime, many businesses and individual travelers say theyíre abandoning their frequent flyer numbers whenever possible and turning to more dependable modes of transport, like cars, trains and even buses. Sure, they may be slower than planes, but just think of the upside: No turbulence, no impenetrable bags of too-salty peanuts, and best of all, no rude flight attendants.