I’ve never been much of a business traveler. I decided early in my career that my wife and kids were far too important to me and that whatever opportunities travel offered, it could not offer more than the value of sharing my family’s life together. And it did cost me, no doubt, but it was right.
My kids are grown, having kids of their own, and my wife has agreed to travel with me whenever feasible so I have been doing a lot more of it, as frequent readers of this blog will know. Two comments–travel sucks, and yet, there is no question that there is so much more that can be done with face to face meetings that can’t be done in the office or even via the great new web conferencing tools.
Traveling sucks. No news to the millions of people who have to travel or who choose to travel for work. But I just have to believe between the too often ridiculously poor and unapologetically disastrous service offered by most airlines (yesterday’s flight was United, in my view one of the consistently worst performers), and the outrageously idiotic rules and procedures of our TSA, travel is far more of a nightmare than it needs to be. One should not have to be able to afford a private jet to get reasonably efficient, friendly, predictable and unembarrassing service. Having to strip oneself almost to your underwear while being pushed by a crowd behind you is outrageous. I cannot understand why we have proven to be such cattle led to this kind of treatment with so little protest.
I suggest a global traveler strike. Let’s just all say we are mad as hell and we are not going to take it any more.
The flip side is the value of face to face. Much of what I was able to accomplish with my month long odyssey on the road was because of face to face meetings. Part of it through the efficiency of group presentations, part of it developing strategic partnerships that cannot be done unless you sit across a desk or conference room table from each other.
So, there it is. Travel sucks and it has to be done. So it goes.
Leave it to a blogger to report what appears to be a growing trend of airline passengers taking anti-terrorist actions into their own hands. Paul William Tenney writes (posted on Newsvine):
This continues a disturbing trend of frightened and irrational airline passengers racially profiling other passengers. Just one month ago, passengers on a British flight refused to allow the plane to take off unless a few of their fellow passengers — two young Asian men — were removed from the plane.
Their only crime and the only evidence of intent the rebellious passengers had: the two men were speaking in Arabic.
In the lead incident a Jewish architect was jumped by fellow passengers on an American Airlines flight because they became suspicious of him. One, apparently falsely, identified himself as a New York police officer. American offered the architect $2000 dollars for his troubles but he declined and is now pursuing legal action against American and the passengers who jumped him. Tenney points out this is one of several recent disturbing incidents.
In my view vigilantism is always a serious problem that needs to be dealt with strongly. But it is also important when dealing with vigilantism to look to its roots. It normally comes after a period of simmering frustration over the lack of protection. The Minutemen “protecting” our borders are out of line. But it is a symptom of deep frustration over the lack of enforcement of existing laws. Vigilantism in the wild west emerged when inadequate law enforcement led to, well, the wild west. In the case of airline vigilantism, it would be easy to conclude that it is not consistent with this frustration because of all the things TSA and the government is doing to stop terrorist activities. Yet, we all know that by far most of it is cosmetic. The latest example is refusing any liquids on board only to come out a few weeks later and say, well, liquids are not the danger we thought they were. This destroys credibility, trust and confidence and leads some to think they need to protect themselves. I for one, and I think the public as a whole, is getting very fed up with cosmetic security and will start calling for real security. At that time, those in charge are going to start having to deal seriously with the issue of racial profiling. Watching sweet little ladies get searched thoroughly just doesn’t make much sense and does not make us feel more secure. It does lead to frustration, anger and taking the issue into private hands–a potentially more dangerous development than the terrorists we fear.
From a crisis management perspective, the airlines now have this trend to fear as well. There is not an easy answer. American offered the gentleman money–but the offer implies some kind of guilt or responsibility. Was it the airlines responsibility? What responsibility should they accept and have to take? I would guess this answer will be found in the courts and usually juries assign responsibility based more on deep pockets more than what is fair and right and reasonable. Clearly a warning sign for airlines, and a whole new opportunity for entrepreneurial attorneys.