If business travel is necessary during the holidays, use these tips from Craig Fichtelberg of AmTrav to minimise the hassles
Business travel around the holidays can be good news or bad news. Either you’re going through security on your way to close a deal or you’re rushing through terminals to fix a customer’s meltdown. No matter which side you’re on, this trip simply can’t wait until the new year.
During this hectic, unpredictable time, you’ll be one of the few businesspeople travelling. This guide will help you get to your destination with minimal holiday hassles.
- Avoid busy airport parking. During the holidays, take Uber, Lyft, or a taxi. You do not want to find a ‘closed’ sign in front of the parking lot when you arrive. Even at my home airport, Chicago O’Hare, the economy lots fill up at busy times.
- Take advantage of lounges. Most people assume they need a business class ticket, metal credit card, or elite flyer status to get in lounges. Wrong. You can pay to get in regardless of your ticket class. The wifi, snacks and space to be productive will be well worth the company’s money.
- Avoid checking bags. In 2016, Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reports of mishandled baggage were elevated in December – 3.58 per 1,000 passengers versus a 2.70 average for the rest of the year. Put differently, the odds of losing a bag increases 33 per cent around the holidays. Just don’t check a bag. If you usually lug physical products along, ship them ahead of time, especially if you have a connecting flight. If you have an extended trip and clothing is the issue, pay the hotel laundry fees.
- Use Global Entry and TSA Pre Check. TSA Pre Check gives you access to expedited security screening. Basically, you get shorter lines and don’t need to remove shoes, belts, light jackets, laptops, or liquids from your carry-on. Here’s the tip: apply to Global Entry for $100 rather than spending $85 for five years of TSA Pre Check. Global Entry gets you expedited clearance at US Customs and Border Protection when you return from abroad, and it comes with TSA Pre Check. The UK government offers the Registered Traveller Programme for nationals of certain countries, which allows travellers to enter the country via biometric passport machines or the UK/EU queue. If you’re not in these programmes yet, apply and request reimbursement from your employer. You’ll thank me next year.
- Get a leg up on other passengers for overbooked flights. The BTS says that the bump rate was only 0.54 passengers per 10,000 travellers in Q4 2016. Still, if you book last minute, you’re less likely to get a seat assignment and more likely to get bumped. There are a few countermeasures you can take. First, book an airline with which you have elite status. They prioritise known travellers on overbooked flights. Second, if you can’t fly with your preferred airline, sign up for a frequent flyer number with whichever airline you do choose. You’ll get priority over people who don’t have a number. Third, don’t buy ‘basic economy’ fares – they have the lowest priority.
- Fly direct and not through cities with bad weather. Bad weather accounted for 32.9 per cent of flight delays in 2016, according to the BTS. Avoid connecting through San Francisco, Newark, Chicago O’Hare, New York and Denver if possible. Their on-time percentages and weather delay rates, as tabulated by The Weather Channel, make them your worst bets for a smooth travel day.
- Can’t beat the blizzard? Video chat. If blizzards are rolling in and you haven’t booked a flight yet, strongly consider not flying. At less busy times, it’s easy to get reassigned in the event of a flight cancellation. Around the holidays, you’re contending with thousands of really frustrated vacationers determined not to lose a day of beach or ski time. If Skype is a deal-breaker in that scenario, are you sure the client is worth it?
In the best scenario, you catch a ride to the airport, have TSA Pre Check, bring carry-on baggage only, get on a direct flight and spend the holiday with friends and family. If that’s not the case, use the other tips to avoid a trip like Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Travel safely. Good luck!
Craig Fichtelberg, an expert in operational strategy and management, co-founded 1-800-CheapAir with Jeff Klee and built out a network of nationwide call centres. In the early 2000s, Fichtelberg successfully led the offline business transition to CheapAir.com. Most recently, Fichtelberg launched AmTrav with the goal of simplifying business travel. Fichtelberg’s unwavering focus has been on disrupting the status quo with products and services customised to the needs of the evolving traveller. When not at work, Fichtelberg can usually be found on the slopes in the winter, at the lake in the summer, and always enjoying quality time with his wife, teenage twins and dog. Fichtelberg holds an MBA from the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business and an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan.