In response to the foiled terrorist effort that targeted commercial transatlantic jetliners, airports increased security measures and airlines cancelled and consolidated flights. In the U. S., hapless travelers were left stranded and frustrated as the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) added lengthier screening procedures and imposed greater restrictions on carry-on baggage. The TSA’s subsequent ban on all liquids and gels means travelers whose plans require overnight stays must either check baggage or purchase toiletries at their destinations. For frequent business travelers who had perfected packing for carry-on, the new requirements and lengthier screening processes mean more "down-time" spent in airports, more potential delays and certainly more hassle.
Although there is no way to completely avoid the inevitable delays and inconveniences of airline travel, experts have some words of wisdom for business travelers:
- Accept the inevitable and plan accordingly. To avoid missing planes, be at the airport at least two hours prior to flight time. Savvy travelers can make the most of waiting time by packing work that lends itself to conditions in airport lounges or clubs - reading/studying reports, catching up on trade magazines, reviewing project timelines, budgets etc. Recognize that an increased volume of check-in baggage means longer waits at the luggage carousel - at least until airlines get up to speed - and adjust your expectations and your schedule.
- Things change - constantly. Check with the airline prior to departure to find out what rules and screening procedures are in place. Within 10 days of the introduction of the more stringent procedures, we saw significant variations in carry-on rules both in the U.S. and overseas.
- Look for the introduction of "express lanes" for business and high-end travelers. Airlines don’t want to lose passengers to private air travel or other options. Keep updated on who is offering facilities to minimize waiting lines for first-class passengers. Use your upgrades or consider paying higher seat prices if the trade-off makes sense.
- Expect innovation, but be prepared to pay for it. Already, we’ve seen a quick pass-through program launched by Verified Identity Pass at Orlando Airport. Working in cooperation with the TSA, the company conducts rigorous screening in advance. Users pay annual fees of about $80 to become members of the Clear Registered Traveler Program. By swiping their clearance card in a special designated lane, members are able to clear security in about 2 or 3 minutes. This type of service is likely to spread to other important airline hubs.
- Consider shipping your luggage before you fly, if your trip requires you to take more luggage than usual. (Perhaps you’re attending a trade show and are hand-carrying presentations or important exhibition materials.)
Finally, for those who are able to afford it, private air travel is an increasingly popular option. Shared jet-ownership programs and the like allow business executives to tap into the convenience of private-jet travel without purchasing a plane outright. For those of us unable to consider this option, a combination of patience, awareness, and flexibility will be indispensable as business adjusts to the demands of today’s world.