Travel narrows the mind of a media man

Why I hate business travel - In the past 12 months, Frank Harrison has clocked up more than 300,000 air miles…but the more he travels, the fussier he gets

It's 4am in Singapore. I'm in The Gallery hotel – "invented by students" according to the proud receptionist. Very hi-tech, apparently.

Anyway, I get out of bed heading for the bathroom and, hey presto, all the lights come on as a movement sensor picks up my feet hitting the ground. Returning, I try to switch the lights off. No joy. All buttons pressed, lights still on. Must be the movement sensor. I lie motionless on the bed, praying that the bright lights turn off. Twenty minutes later, still motionless, they're beaming away. I fall asleep.

They're still on when I wake up. Boy, do I hate business travel.

I seem to be travelling all the time. In the past 12 months, I've accumulated more than 300,000 air miles. I'm a BA Gold Card member twice over. I've been everywhere, lounged in every lounge (JFK's the best by the way), and drizzled a thousand salads with BA's Lemon Spicy Dressing. The more I travel, the fussier I get.

Short haul to Europe is scary. I feel like a hard-nosed businessman clone. Ninety five per cent of business travellers are men in suits with BlackBerrys, thinning hair and mobile phones and they all have those roll along black cases that just fit in the overhead lockers... just like me.

Getting on the plane is always a bun fight – first come, first served on the locker space.

After landing, while taxiing to the gate, the cabin is always full of the "beepity-beeps" of just switched-on mobiles receiving those interminable text messages from local mobile networks. Everyone's checking their e-mails before we get off the plane. Then the mad rush to the taxi rank.

When it comes to long haul, there's a different but equally well-trodden pattern. After check-in, it's straight to the lounge, which is normally packed. Once again, very nearly all the people there are men aged 30 to 50. BlackBerrys and mobiles and laptops all round. On the plane, I've discovered that some business class seats are better than others. Seat 64A is a particular favourite on jumbos. It's on the upper deck, so has additional locker space between the seat and the window (for laptops, books, etc.) and, big bonus, its own little walkway that means you don't have to climb over anyone's legs to get to the loo. Arriving at the other end is again a bun fight, as everyone dashes to be at the front of passport control.

New York is always a race as passport control now involves fingerprinting and taking a photo of every non-resident every time.

My BlackBerry is both my saviour and the bain of my life. Saviour because, without it, I would return from every trip to an impossible mountain of e-mail. Bain because, like growing numbers of business travellers, it occupies much of my waking hours. It is in fact a brilliant invention, very cleverly designed to do just about everything you want it to do. I'm a big advocate. If you travel on business and don't have one now you probably will fairly soon – I notice that more and more travellers are getting "BlackBerried".

I've come across people who travel very much more than me and found that these people are the fussiest travellers of all. On arrival at Heathrow once, the man sitting beside me demanded to know what gate the plane was pulling up to. When he found out, he embarked on an outpouring of vitriol to the poor stewardess, complaining that he had to walk too far from the gate and why couldn't the pilot find a closer gate, and how he was a Black Card holder and spent five days each week flying around the world. Fusspot.

I'm heading in that direction.

Finally, I have to squeeze in a word about advertising to the business traveller. There is no more potentially captive audience than this niche consumer segment. I've found myself staring at the 3D Volvo TV in the lounge at Heathrow and JFK – several times. I've read the BA inflight magazines from cover to cover – and looked at all the ads as they are all targeting me. I look forward to each new edition.

I read the ads on the long walkways at airports.

I read any texts I get on my mobile. I notice special promotions and displays in the departures lounges. Bottom line, I'm a sucker for all the relevant marketing going on at airports and on planes that is targeting me. But I still hate business travel. 

Frank Harrison is worldwide strategic resources director, ZenithOptimedia

If you are so in love with something that you would like to pen an article for MediaWeek or if you despise something somuch that you simply must get your vitriol into print, e-mail or write to us at Love & Hate, Media Week, 174 Hammersmith Road, London,W6 7JP or fax us on 020 8267 8020


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