March 24, 2023

You’re the Boss Blog: My 6 Biggest Complaints About Business Travel

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Although TerraCycle still has less than $20 million a year in annual revenue, it operates in 21 countries now. That means that my intense domestic travel — Minneapolis to Racine, Wisconsin, to Chicago — has morphed into intense global travel — Newark to Bogotá, Colombia, to Tel Aviv.

No matter how you do it, travel is a strain — made worse, I believe, because airlines seem to have a hard time with customer service. Maybe it’s just because there are always so many exhausted travelers complaining. Or maybe it’s something more systemic. Who knows? But I continue to believe there are some easy fixes that airlines could make. Here are my top six.

Outlets: How often do you wander an airport looking desperately for an electrical outlet? When I find one, I will even sit on the floor, beside a smelly bathroom, if that’s what it takes. But why is this necessary? Why not put them everywhere? Why don’t the airlines and airports make it something they market: Never search for an outlet!

Nonreclining seats: This is almost insulting. The chair has a recline button built into it, but when you push that button and try to recline, it moves half an inch. And then the best part is when you are landing and the airline attendants make a fuss about moving your seat back into an upright position.

The cabin P.A.: The cabin public address system, I believe, should be reserved for truly important messages, and they should be made quickly. No banter, no talking slowly, no pressing the button and then not talking. I don’t really care what the wind speed will be where we’re landing in eight hours or even what the weather will be — it will be what it will be. Not only is the chatter annoying, it cuts off whatever entertainment you are trying to enjoy. I’ve had flights where my movie seemed to be interrupted by sales pitches every 10 minutes — in three languages.

Checking in: Depending on the airline and the destination, the cutoff time for check-in booths and kiosks to stop giving boarding passes is generally 30 minutes to 60 minutes before departure. Why? Honestly, just give me a chance to run to the gate and make it. I understand that the security and immigration lines are my obstacle – but let me try, especially if I have no bags to check. (Here’s a tip: If you ask nicely, they will often call the gate and have the gate authorize a boarding pass.)

Lounge rules: Some airlines let you into the lounge only if you are flying internationally. But since when do Mexico and Canada (my homeland) belong to the United States? Most airlines apply domestic rules to destinations in Canada or Mexico regardless of the length of the flight (Miami to Vancouver, for example, is quite a bit longer than Miami to Bogotá). If you haven’t been to an airport lounge, it’s basically a bunch of nice couches, lots of outlets, free snacks and an open bar. Sometimes there are showers (but rarely). You can get in based on your loyalty-card status or with certain credit cards. But it’s rarely clear. For example, with Star Alliance, if you have a gold status, you can get into the lounge (in certain airports) if you are flying international. And you can bring a guest, but the guest must be flying Star Alliance, as well. These strange policies are especially annoying because you just never know. And, really, what is the incremental cost of allowing one more person into a lounge?

Alcohol policy: Having a few drinks can be a nice way to knock yourself out on a long flight and ward off jet lag. But why is it that you can bring a sandwich and a Coke on board from an airport shop but you can’t bring a beer?

I don’t think I’m asking for a lot here — although a free snack every now and then would be nice. What would you like to see?

Tom Szaky is the chief executive of TerraCycle, which is based in Trenton.

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Airbus Raises Its Forecast for Demand

Airbus predicted that airlines would buy 27,800 new jets by 2030, up 7 percent from a forecast of 26,000 planes, which was made last December before a wave of orders this year for new Airbus jets from Asian carriers. The company, based in Toulouse, France, said the new orders would be worth $3.5 trillion, up 9.4 percent from the $3.2 trillion forecast nine months ago.

In June, Boeing, based in Chicago, predicted sales of 33,500 new jets through 2030, worth $4 trillion. Boeing’s figures include smaller regional jets with 70 to 100 seats, whereas Airbus’s forecast is for aircraft that seat 100 or more passengers.

Airbus said it expected passenger traffic globally to grow at an annual rate of 4.8 percent over the next two decades, just below the approximately 5 percent average rate of the past 30 years. Boeing’s most recent forecast predicted a growth rate of 5.3 percent.

According to the Airbus forecast, more than a third of the demand for new planes will come from the Asia-Pacific region, particularly from India and China, where domestic air passenger traffic is expected to grow at an average annual pace of 9.8 percent and 7.2 percent, respectively, over the next two decades.

This year Airbus received several major orders from Asia for its single-aisle jets, including a record-breaking $18 billion deal for 200 planes from AirAsia, the Malaysian low-cost airline, and two large deals with Indian carriers: a $16.6 billion sale of 150 planes to GoAir and a 180-plane order from IndiGo, worth $16 billion.

By 2030, Airbus predicted, travel within Europe and North America will each represent about one-fifth of global passenger traffic and new aircraft demand, down from just under one third each today.

Nonetheless, Airbus forecast that domestic travel within the United States would represent the biggest region in terms of overall traffic flows, as measured by the revenue that airlines earn per available seat for each mile flown, at 11.1 percent of the total. Europe would represent 7.5 percent of revenue per seat mile.

John Leahy, the chief salesman at Airbus, acknowledged that the current economic climate was likely to lead to below-average growth in demand for air travel at least through 2012, but he emphasized that the long-term growth trends in air travel had remained consistent for at least three decades.

“While we experienced a kind of ‘lost decade’ in the period since Sept. 11 in terms of economic growth, air traffic over that same period is still up by 45 percent,” Mr. Leahy said by telephone, referring to the terrorist attacks in 2001. “Over the next couple of years, we do expect to see another slow growth period, but we don’t foresee a double-dip recession,” he added.

The vast majority of new jet sales were expected to be in the single-aisle category of planes like the Boeing 737 and the Airbus A320, which normally seat about 150 passengers. Airbus predicted that nearly 70 percent of sales over the next 20 years — 19,200 aircraft worth $1.4 trillion by 2030 — would be of this type. Forty percent of those planes would be used to replace aging, less fuel-efficient aircraft, Airbus said, while half of new single-aisle deliveries were likely to go to airlines in North America and Europe.

The single-aisle segment is the most hotly contested for both Boeing and Airbus, each of which claims about half of the market. But the two companies are expected to begin to face competition at the beginning of the next decade when other manufacturers — including Bombardier of Canada and Embraer of Brazil — are forecast to start deliveries of jets that can seat similar numbers of passengers.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: September 19, 2011

An earlier version of this article provided incorrect figures for forecast annual domestic air traffic growth in the United States and Europe for the period 2011-2030. Airbus predicted average growth of 2.4 percent per year over the period, not 11.1 percent, while intra-European traffic was predicted to increase by an average 3.2 percent, not 7.5 percent.

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