Tag Archives: Business Travel.

One of those days.

(written on Wednesday)

Right now I am sat in a taxi. I am in Denmark going to a meeting hurtling at high speed to my destination. The time is 2:36pm. My meeting is at 3pm and the flight back departs at 6pm. I just arrived and rushed through the airport. I expected my partners here to pick me up. I walked around the airport. I called them, and sought out a different number and rang that too. No answer on anyone’s mobile. So, I call reception. “I’m sorry sir, they are in a meeting and cannot come to the phone.”

“I know that – I am supposed to be at that meeting too, but am at the airport. Is anyone coming for me?”

Apparently not. So I am in a taxi. No idea what this will cost, but I suppose it is one of those things. I checked through the emails – no mention of a pickup by either of us, so it is my fault for not checking.

An expensive day out all in all then.

Just keep telling yourselves that it is all jet setting and champagne people. One day it might be true.

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Time for something about flying.

Last year, I had a mileage balance with Star Alliance (as a Lufthansa frequent flyer) of 98,000 miles.  In economy.  This wasn’t all of the flying that I did, but just the flying with Star Alliance.  There were other flights which were with different airlines, which don’t count towards this.  It is a lot for economy.  Even within the sphere of frequent flyers, doing this sort of mileage in economy commands a little respect.

The 98,000 is relevant because for Lufthansa the tiers of status within their scheme are 35,000 miles and 100,000 miles.  The next tier would have meant increased chances at upgrades and better availability to spend all of these miles.  I wrote to Lufthansa to see if they would make a exception and grant me the status.  They turned me down.  Them’s the rules.  It seemed a little harsh to me, given that I had the flights booked to make up those miles within the first two weeks of January.  For this reason, I started to look around, and decided to concentrate of BA instead.

Right now, I am sat in 19G on a Boeing 747-400 on my way from LAX to LHR before flying on to MAN and home.  I started my journey at MRY – Monterey.

Shuttle service to LAX

MRY - this is it. Tiny. Here to serve golfers visiting 17 Mile Drive, as far as I could tell.

19G is Club World, with a fully reclining seat, which turns into a bed.  I have just slept for six hours.  Why am I in Club World (the business class product)?  Well, BA have four levels of service.  World Traveler (Economy), World Traveler Plus (Premium Economy), Club World (Business) and First.  The budget that my client gives me is enough for economy, so dipping into my own funds, I can fly in Premium Economy.  This is a good product on BA.  The seats are larger than economy, they have more recline, and there are fewer seats across the cabin.  I flew to Hong Kong recently in this cabin on one of BA’s newest aircraft, and was extremely impressed.  I arrived rested and relaxed – not really something that I get flying economy on such a long flight.  For me, this is worth the difference in price, but I am flying a fair amount so the whole airport experience becomes rather tiresome.  I am also quite tall.  However, I don’t think that for once a year flyers, off on holiday that anything other than economy is necessary (unless it is your honeymoon, or you have money to burn).

What is wonderful about this cabin though, is if there is availability you can use miles to upgrade to business class.  This is how I am now sat in Club World.  I managed it on the way out as well as on the return – which required a certain amount of effort.  The images are from the seat on the upper deck on the way out.  A daytime flight, I barely slept, so enjoyed the champagne hospitality perhaps a little too much!

The Seat

Image

With British Airways, I didn’t have any status, so was back at the bottom of the pile.  I am, however, now already at tier one (bronze) with tier two (silver) within grasp.  With that comes business class lounge access, even on economy tickets and premium economy tickets.  As it is likely that not all of my long haul flights will be upgraded, this makes the experience far more pleasant.  For example, today I came directly from a hot and dusty bike festival after a day in the sunshine, to Monterey airport, then flew to LA with a short 1.5 hour connection.  The TSA (security in the USA) were living up to their reputation as being extremely slow, so that when I got to the lounge, they were already calling the flight for boarding.  Thankfully, the British Airways representative there arranged for me to be brought to the head of the queue to have a shower (there are 8 private bathrooms for the lounge) so that I could be fresh for the flight.  In and out within 10 minutes.  It is for this kind of service that lounge access and status (or even a business class boarding pass) come into their own.

For the short haul, flying from Manchester to Germany mostly, there is a choice of Lufthansa into Frankfurt, or their low cost carrier GermanWings, into Cologne.  It is the latter option that I am taking – sure, there is no lounge access, but the money saved can be used to pay towards the long haul tickets, where any discomfort lasts so much longer.  The experience isn’t quite as pleasant as Lufthansa – and Cologne Airport’s facilities are less good, but it makes sense.

So far, I am really glad of the switch and have had a very positive experience with BA.

Korea

The more of these business trips I do, the more I become blasé about them. Where as once, flying was a big deal, now it is nothing. Long haul flying, which I had only experienced once before taking this job is now something that although more of a big deal for me, doesn’t have the impact or sense of occasion it once had.

The trip to Seoul was actually not one I was all that excited about. I had not had the greatest experience last time that I was in South Korea. The hotel location wasn’t great, and I was extremely tired after the Taipei show. The first hotel I rejected and the stress of this, worrying about the new hotel and upsetting my hosts played on my mind. While the new hotel was great (rated 7th on trip advisor for Korean hotels) there was very little to do in the surrounding area. It didn’t feel that alive. As such, I thought of Seoul as a rather dull city.

This time, I chose a hotel somewhere else. Actually, it was more that the hotel was chosen for me by being the cheapest non love hotel which I could find within reasonable distance. The area surrounding the hotel I am told is fairly industrial, and actually had lots of small side streets with restaurants and eateries. I was well off the tourist track though, with not a MacDonalds, Starbucks or even an English menu in sight.

On the first evening I just walked around the area. I had bought a new CD at the airport (Annie Mac Presents 2010) and had put it onto the iPod straight away. I love the way that music evokes memories, so this is a new resolution now. Listening to this I pounded my way down streets – completely out of place I might add!

 

The biggest problem with the travelling is not to waste the opportunity when you are in these countries. For example, it was only the third year of being in Vegas that I actually walked the length of the strip and went to the Hoover Damn. You can go to places without actually seeing them. With that in mind I went into the town on Sunday – plucking up courage to use the underground system. It was late by the time I got to the City Hall, and what I understand to be the city hall gates. I got here just in time to see the changing of the guard. Pretty interesting, and not much effort form me! I was pleased.

After about 20 mins (this was a long ceremony!) I turned and looked around where I was. The G20 is on its way to Seoul, and every effort seemed to be being made to spruce the place up a bit. The square I was in had huge banners protecting the new City Hall being built advertising Korea’s place in the list of civilised nations (or something like that). Smiling to myself, I crossed onto a central square and watched a load of teens playing in a fountain for a bit. Then made my way over to a large patch of grass and tried to make out where to go next in my guide.

I had meant to purchase a guide to South Korea at Heathrow. I had forgotten this, mostly because I went via Munich. I didn’t want a Lonely Planet guide in German either (people might think I was a German) so I decided that TravelWiki was the way to go. Sitting on the grass, while trying to get a wifi signal on my phone, someone approached me and asked if I spoke English and what I was doing here. Now this is one of those things which rarely happens in life. It should, but it doesn’t. A complete stranger was being friendly, decided that I looked a little bit lost and offered to show me around the centre of her city. I jumped at the chance.

The photos here are from that day. We had dinner together too, and I left her company to go back to the hotel well after dark. It was sweet, innocent and completely welcoming. In fact, it puts Korea back on the map of places which I would go to given the choice. My mind was completely changed, and I will look forward to my next visit.




Helping out a fellow traveller

At the show over the past couple of days, I met and go to know the international sales managers for a couple of different brands.  One of whom I gave a lift to the airport today.  She is young – a lot younger than me.  Also a lot smarter.  At 22 she is in a similar position to me at 30.  Traveling from the States alone, it was her first time in England and on business, and only for a couple of days.  I know what this is like.  And I also have experienced the ‘just passing through’ feeling of visiting a place, and yet never having seen any of it, or nothing apart from ‘work’.  It is also difficult to know where to start, especially if you only have a few hours to spare.  The choice is crippling in my experience.  I had this feeling in Tokyo.  So, I took her to a few places.  A proper English pub for a quick beer, and then on to Eton and Windsor.  It was a whistle stop tour taking in Eton College, and Windsor Castle.  We did it in about two hours, and it was good fun.  I hope that it made her visit just a little more interesting.  It also made me think about how nice it actually is around here.  Sometimes it is easy to forget what you have on your doorstep.

Finding the Soul in Seoul

Well I arrived last night, and have so far found the city to be pretty cool. One downside is with business travel – what do you do when the hotel you book isn’t sufficiently nice? Spent two hours last night finding something where I would be happy to sleep!