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Random Thoughts from the Road

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I’ve been traveling a lot of late due to business.  Who knew being an unemployed bum was such hard work?  In September, I spent 14 of 30 days on the road; I’m looking at roughly 18 of 31 days in October being on the road.

So I’m becoming familiar once again with the airline and hotel industries in a personal way, and have some thoughts and questions as a result.

Air Travel

It is 2009, and we’re knocking on 2010.  Airlines continue to struggle from what I can tell.  Various carriers are now tacking on $15-20 fees for checked baggage, and United (for one) wants to charge for food.  That’s all good; you gotta do what you gotta do to be profitable.

What I wonder about, though, is why in the 21st century, no airline offers power outlets (except maybe in First Class, which I wouldn’t know anything about).  Maybe the ones I haven’t been on — Southwest, Virgin, etc. — do but the majors I have been on do not.  Almost every single passenger has at least one electronic device that could use the juice, if it’s only a cellphone.  Is it really that difficult to add an outlet to the back of each seat?

In-flight wi-fi access is coming.  All I can say is, Faster Please!

Since I mostly fly Continental, I can honestly say that you can save on the food and just give me a power outlet and wi-fi, and I’ll be a happy camper.

Lastly, I wonder about those food/beverage carts.  Do those things have to be so large such that passengers simply cannot get past them at all?  Are trays completely out of the question?  I’d hate to be the person who has to go to the bathroom while the beverage cart is blocking the aisle.  Actually, I’ve been that guy….

Hotels

Seriously, it’s 2009, and personal wi-fi is easily available.  I have a Verizon MiFi device, for example.  Why are the high-end business hotels still charging $12 a night for Internet access?  I’m looking at you, Marriott, Hilton, and Westin!

Amusingly enough, the budget brands all seem to offer free wi-fi; I assume they take that minimal cost into account in the $69 per night I’m paying for the room.  Meanwhile, the high-end hotels charging $199 a night want to ding me for another $12 for Internet.  Sheesh… all that’s doing is making you look like an idiot and a cheapskate.

On the other hand, the budget hotels that do offer free wi-fi… please invest in some signal repeaters?  Please?  This one here is $90 from Amazon and would let your guests on the third floor actually use that free Internet you’re offering, since all you’ve got apparently is the router somewhere in the main lobby.

And once again, outlets.  Is there some reason why you can’t just place a power strip that costs $5 from Staples next to the beautiful desk instead of making me crawl under desks and unplug various things?  The contemporary business traveler has at least two items he needs to recharge: his laptop and his cellphone.  In my case, I also have the MiFi device.  If I had a camera and a video recorder, that’s two more devices that need to be plugged in.  Give me a power strip for cryin’ out loud.

Miscellaneous

One thing that I know isn’t the airline’s fault, but really bugs the hell outta me are these people who insist on carrying on luggage that really isn’t going to work.  The sight of some guy who stuffed his carry-on to the max and is trying for five minutes to stuff the damn thing into the overhead compartment, while the line behind him grows ever longer makes me wonder about the survival of the species.

Here’s a thought.  At every gate, have a replica of the overhead compartment built.  Before boarding, have every passenger try to put the carry-on into the overhead compartment.  If it takes longer than five seconds, gate check that sucker.  Everyone getting on that flight would appreciate it.

Finally, flying in coach a lot makes me really appreciate the delicacy of this issue.  One full flight I was on recently, the middle seat is vacant, and I see a rather large woman walking down the aisle.  I’m like,”Oh please, dear God, no…” and I felt badly about that.  I don’t hate on people because of their weight or size; who knows what their situation is.  At the same time, the thought of spending four hours with someone’s belly fat rubbing up against my thighs is just not something I’d like to contemplate.

Yes, airline seats are far too narrow for our overweight society.  Yes, we all should lose weight (I can stand to drop a few pounds myself).  But at that moment, when you’re flying from Dallas to New Jersey, and you see someone who clearly cannot fit comfortably into a single middle seat walking towards you… none of those considerations really enter the picture, y’know?  I have no real answer to this one, but man… it makes you quickly run through various rules of etiquette in your head as to what is and is not acceptable in situations like that.

Anyhow, just some ruminations from this life of being on the road constantly.

-rsh

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Rob Hahn
Managing Partner of 7DS Associates, and the grand poobah of this here blog. Once called "a revolutionary in a really nice suit", people often wonder what I do for a living because I have the temerity to not talk about my clients and my work for clients. Suffice to say that I do strategy work for some of the largest organizations and companies in real estate, as well as some of the smallest startups and agent teams, but usually only on projects that interest me with big implications for reforming this wonderful, crazy, lovable yet frustrating real estate industry of ours.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Rob,
    This is an awesome post! So well put. I don’t travel nearly as much as you but experience all the same issues. ALL issues easily overcome with little to no effort. I hope that as time marches on, the airlines & hotels start to understand this. (BTW, Southwest does use trays instead of the monster carts)
    Take care,
    Dale

  2. Rob,
    This is an awesome post! So well put. I don’t travel nearly as much as you but experience all the same issues. ALL issues easily overcome with little to no effort. I hope that as time marches on, the airlines & hotels start to understand this. (BTW, Southwest does use trays instead of the monster carts)
    Take care,
    Dale

  3. I don’t recall JetBlue using carts on my last 4 flights with them either. Must be the bigger airlines…

    On the overweight people versus seats thing, I relate to that more than anything. While on JetBlue I noticed a larger gentleman a few seats up on the opposite side of the plane who was sprawled (quite literally) across two seats. He even dropped his seat back and nearly knocked over the soda can of the guy behind him.

    The issue itself is a larger topic than I care to address but I will say that there should be a “no plopping into seats” rule on airplanes.

  4. I don’t recall JetBlue using carts on my last 4 flights with them either. Must be the bigger airlines…

    On the overweight people versus seats thing, I relate to that more than anything. While on JetBlue I noticed a larger gentleman a few seats up on the opposite side of the plane who was sprawled (quite literally) across two seats. He even dropped his seat back and nearly knocked over the soda can of the guy behind him.

    The issue itself is a larger topic than I care to address but I will say that there should be a “no plopping into seats” rule on airplanes.

  5. Rob, that’s the hardest I have laughed in a week! And it’s possibly the funniest article you’ve ever posted. As to the big mac heading for the middle seat next to you, it’s rather like being a rat on a burning ship – but with no exit! And man, can I relate.

  6. Rob, that’s the hardest I have laughed in a week! And it’s possibly the funniest article you’ve ever posted. As to the big mac heading for the middle seat next to you, it’s rather like being a rat on a burning ship – but with no exit! And man, can I relate.

  7. Your hotel wi-fi segment got me … especially after being at the W Hotel in ATL and being charged $14.95 per day for wi-fi.

    I can’t wait to read your post when people REALLY start using their cell phones on flights.

  8. Your hotel wi-fi segment got me … especially after being at the W Hotel in ATL and being charged $14.95 per day for wi-fi.

    I can’t wait to read your post when people REALLY start using their cell phones on flights.

  9. Thanks Rob, another great post, I hope the hotels are listening. One note here is that if you are traveling with a partner, that would be, two cell phones, two laptops and two whatever else. The power strip alone might prevent serious relationship friction with little pain.

  10. Thanks Rob, another great post, I hope the hotels are listening. One note here is that if you are traveling with a partner, that would be, two cell phones, two laptops and two whatever else. The power strip alone might prevent serious relationship friction with little pain.

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