The Evolution Of Business Travel, A Podcast

The Evolution Of Business Travel, A Podcast

*** SHOW NOTES ***


Being recorded in the beautiful Embassy Suites Knoxville, TN.  This has been a very odd winter when it comes to travel. The midwest has been getting hammered, but the eastern coast has received very little.

Recent travel news

Delta and Coke teamed up for a marketing disaster recently with their oddly creepy napkins that on one side was printed “Because, you’re on a plane full of interesting people and hey… you never know” and on the other side had a spot for you to write your name and seat number. I posted this on my Instagram page January 22 with the caption “#tinder at 30,000 ✈️ Do you like me ✅ 👍 or 👎 #oldschool . ” I have no idea how a room full of people could’ve ever decided that distributing this was a good idea.

I recently came across the website WorkFrom which is really handy for people that work remotely. Yes, we all know that most Starbucks and McDonalds both offer free WiFi and plenty of power outlets but you never there might be some undiscovered spot just down the street. It’s free to sign up and of course, there’s a “Pro” version for a yearly fee. At this point I don’t mind the ads and really haven’t found anything lacking in the free version.

To wrap it up, his morning I flew out of Orlando and while sitting at the gate I heard my name paged overhead. Instinctively I tapped my back pocket, yep the wallets still there. I wasn’t flying standby so I didn’t need a seat and finally I was on Southwest so no chance of a first class upgrade. I walked over to the gate agent introduced myself and was informed by the gate agent that Southwest wanted to give me 1000 points for being a loyal customer. Sweet, 1000 point certainly isn’t going to fly me to Hawaii, but it’s nice to be appreciated. Plus my return flight is on Valentine’s Day which is the only day that Southwest still offers free adult beverages.

Today’s episode, The Evolution Of Business Travel…… Part 1:

It seems like road warriors are always wanting to sit around and wax poetic about the good ol’ days of travel. Even my Dad, now in his 80’s still loves to talk about his traveling years. In the early 1970s his company required all executives to fly first class. The first time he told me this story I remember asking “Did they actually type up a memo saying that first class was required?”

One of my favorite stories of his is the “How I let Southwest Airlines stock my home bar”. The year was 1973 and we were living in Dallas TX. Southwest was relatively new with just a handful of airplanes that only flew to three cities, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio.  At the time Braniff International owned this highly lucrative 3-city business traveler route. To gain market share Southwest put together this marketing campaign. You could fly Southwest Dallas to San Antonio for half price…… or you could fly the same route for full price and in return, Southwest would reward you with a bottle of Chivas Regal or another brand of whiskey. What? Businessmen running on expense accounts, this was a no brainer as they hauled bottle after bottle back home. And that’s how Southwest Airlines stocked my Dad’s home bar. Some of the bottles might still in his house. I did a bit of internet searching and came up with a few additional Southwest tidbits. This program ran for a short time, maybe a few months, but during that time Southwest was the largest liquor distributor in the state of Texas. The cost of that 1973 Dallas to San Antonio ticket was $26.00. 46 years later, Delta charges you $35.00 just to check your bag.

In 2019, could you imagine putting together a promo where you’re handing out bottles of booze? Just think of all the fodder for the monthly travel roundup.

Some of the changes that I’ve experienced.

My first business trip was 1998, and at that time laptops were few a far between. My trip was Atlanta to Tampa and at the Atlanta airport I had to open my laptop and actually have it boot up in front of security….. there was no TSA at the time. If we still had to do that everyone and I mean everyone would miss their flight.

In 2000 I was still using a travel agency. My profile contained my favorite airlines and hotels. I’d call them up on my desk phone or flip phone tell them where, when and the approximate time and within an hour a courier would deliver my itinerary and tickets to the office. Now the beauty of this was if something on your trip went sideways all you did was pick up your desk phone or flip phone place a call and let the agency spend their time getting you re-booked etc. We were all issued AT&T calling cards in conjunction with our flip phones that only had monthly minute plans, no unlimited minutes and they still charged for long distance. Our corporate calling card plane was cheaper than our Pac-Tel cellular plan.

A few years after that the internet became more prevalent for the business traveler. MapQuest was a real game changer. No longer were we dependent on that January purchase of the updated Rand McNally Road Atlas or directions from some rando at the gas pump. “Well watcha wanna do” as soon as I heard that phrase I knew I was about to get really lost. Now MapQuest wasn’t the end all to be all, you still had to drive and read…. at the same time. Plus the directions were a bit like a Rubics cube. “Stop Sign” 1 mile turn left. Did this mean turn left at the stop sign in one mile or at the Stop Sign then 1 mile and turn left. Then GPS units became the rage, and they weren’t cheap! It told you when to turn and how long the trip would take, this was a game changer. Garmin, Magellan, and TomTom were the market leaders, so what brand did I buy? A Harmon Kardon, and here was the sales pitch.

Salesmen – You’re familiar with Harmen Kardon audio equipment.

Me, a self-proclaimed audiophile– Of course.

Salesmen – Just imagine the high-quality sound coming out of this unit as you listen to the precise directions.

Hook, line and sinker, they had me. 18 months later it was obsolete because there was no way to update the onboard maps.  GPS systems a quickly shrinking market. The free app on my phone does a much better job, complete with construction alerts, accidents warnings, and speed trap locations. We’ll get to smartphones in a bit.

For me, the next big evolution was internet connectivity. Remember those AOL CD’s (remember CD’s?) that gave you access to 1000 hours of Dial-Up internet during your first 45 days after signing up? You needed all 1000 hours as you watched a picture download pixel by pixel on that 14.4 baud modem. All of us traveled with 15′ to 30′ phone cables because you never knew where the hotel room phone jack would be located. If you were lucky there’d be an open port on the side of the phone if not you played hide-n0-seek looking for it. A few years later hotels began pulling ethernet to each room and we traded our 15′ to 30′ telephone cable for a 15′ to 30′ network cable.

When WiFi first hit the hotels, coverage was spotty and normally there was a charge unless you were a Diamond or Platinum member. I can remember requesting a room close to the antennae so I had the best connection possible. This often meant a room close to the elevators, because the more cable you pulled the more the WiFi install cost. The trade-off was you heard the elevator doors all night and then every guest got the chance to walk, run or stumble past your “Do Not Disturb” sign also all night long. Those days are long gone and now we complain if the WiFi drops out while flying. Nowadays my smartphone easily becomes a WiFi hotspot allowing for connectivity almost anywhere. More on smartphones later.

This wraps up part one stay tuned for part two.

Thanks for listening and safe travels.

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