The Degrading Perks of Business Travel

Posted by on January 4, 2014

If you know me at all, you know I’m not the type to brag or show off or talk about being better than others. It just isn’t who I am. But today, I’m giving myself a bit of permission to be a bit of an ass. Here’s my story.

Flashback to about 6-7 years ago when I started doing a lot of travel for work. I got status with the airline and started to experience some of the perks. Free upgrades, lounge access, priority boarding, and the odd other item here and there. It was nice to enjoy these things when they were relatively new to me and I was just getting used to frequent travel.

Here I am today, a changed man when it comes to air travel. And the more I travel, the more I am beginning to notice that I have less and less tolerance for some of the things that have now become commonplace. Specifically, the lounge.

At one time, the airline lounge was a place exclusive to frequent travelers and those who flew first class. You’d enter the lounge, be kindly greeted, and enjoy the relative quiet nature of the lounge. Since only first class and business travelers were in the lounge, it was so quiet and really peaceful to be in compared to all of the loud noise of the regular airport gates. For those who travel a LOT, this was a very nice perk. Yes, some lounges have free food, and free booze, but for me, the quiet was always nice. I have a hard time dealing with a lot of noise sometimes so the quiet nature of the lounge was so appealing.

Now it seems that the lounge is no longer just for business travelers and first class passengers. I have seen more kids and babies in lounges in the last year than I ever have in all of my travels. And on top of that, it seems that the parents of said kids seem to think it’s a free for all where they don’t have to pay attention or mind their kids. Screaming, yelling, kids running around, and general panic from these little ones is more common than ever.

When the hell did this become the norm? Where did my quiet lounge go? How is it that everyone and their dog (in some cases that is literal) is now allowed in here? How is it that us who keep the airlines in business now have to put up with this racket on a frequent basis when at one time, it was nice and quiet?

Yes, I’m sounding a bit elitist but the reality is, us business travelers keep the airlines in business. If it weren’t for us, there would be far fewer flights, and they would be FAR more expensive. Is it that much to ask that we have a place where we can relax without the worries of some 1 year old kid screaming while his dad points and laughs at him thinking it’s funny. I kid you not. I sat in a US lounge last year and watched this with my own eyes. The kids scream was audible from the other side of the airport and his dad thought it was just funny. I left the lounge quite pissed.

It would seem now that the lounges are no longer for us who earn the right to be in them, but for anyone who can smile nice enough to get in. Makes me want to spend less time in them.

Then comes a second, albeit much smaller qualm. First/Business class.

I rarely get the chance to fly first class because my clients don’t want to fork out that kind of money. But I do get free upgrades from time to time. Part of flying first class is the extra special treatment you get, and that it’s somewhat “above everything else”. It varies from airline to airline but you expect far better service and a quality of treatment that you never see in economy. Today, flying from Toronto to Houston, I had a business class ticket. I was looking forward to sitting back, relaxing, and enjoying the flight.

Well, it didn’t quite happen that way. For starters, I forgot my tablet at home so I was forced to watch what the airline had. Not a big deal but annoyed. Then came in not one, not two, but THREE kids who were all seated in business class. Add to that a VERY loud SCREAMING kid just behind the first class cabin. Between the racket and commotion the three kids made and the screeching noise coming from the baby, it was very hard to relax at all. Thankfully, once we were up high enough, noise cancelling headphones cranked up solved the problem.

I have never seen that many kids in first class. And yes, I know all kids are not bad. I have two of them and I know exactly how they’ll react when they get on a plane. They will be excited, blah blah blah. I get it. But as a business traveler who deals with dozens of flights a year, the less commotion for me the better. This just made it worse.

As a result of this trip, I find myself turning to the dark side and becoming more and more of an ass when it comes to air travel. I’ve never thought of myself as a snob or stuck up in any way but I think I have become that way with air travel. My tolerance for bullshit is at an all time low. If I have to spend 8-12 hours on planes and airports, I want and need less bullshit to deal with. Noisy kids in first class and the lounges needs to go.

But since it’s never going to happen, I’ll simply vent my frustrations here, get on my next flight, plug in my headphones and hope I can drown out whatever terrible noise is happening this time.

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