The roadwarriors, the consultants the travelling workers of the world – it’s up to us to get travel back to normal now following coronavirus.
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We Are The Motor of the Travel World
Not everyone is a fan of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, but her character, John Galt famously said that “we are the motor of the world.” For travel businesses, roadwarriors, consultants, and travelling workers are what make the business profitable and sustainable.
Many long-haul flights are started based on the economics of what the business class of the aircraft will produce. For some routes, if business class is full, the rest of the aircraft (economy, economy plus, premium economy) is gravy straight to the bottom line.
It’s the same reason why car rentals start at $10 on weekends but $50 during the week and why all of the cheapest leisure tickets require a Saturday night stay. Those are the empty flights, the empty rooms, and the idle cars that travelling workers aren’t occupying on weeks at home.
Travel restrictions are loosening as states re-open for business. It’s incumbent upon us to be the first back to work, the first on the front lines to help save the companies that make our work possible.
Those companies aren’t just struggling, they may go under. I had mixed feelings about government rescues applied to for-profit businesses but in almost every case, as the shutdown globally has expanded, it has not been enough.
Hertz has missed lease payments (potential bankruptcy candidate), American Airlines posted a $2.2bn loss in the first quarter which was only partially affected. United and Delta fared better, but both are discussing how limited demand is even well into the future.
But layoffs that United has discussed haven’t been finalized. There is still time. None of my clients or peers are glad to be sitting at home at this point in time, securing a meeting whether it’s inside the office or not, is not difficult. Business people have clear schedules (save the endless conference calls) for the moment and want to be out of the house.
The curve has been flattened, the health care systems have the capacity to absorb spikes in the system and by the way, hospitals need our help now too.
How Do We Safely Execute?
With great power comes great responsibility. I am not sure that travelling is equal to power, but we do carry additional responsibility. We must be safer than necessary, we must demonstrate that it is possible to re-enter the world which means being overly cautious in a visible manner.
This isn’t a stretch and perhaps not even a deviation from normal mode operations for roadwarriors. Many of us were the ones wiping down our tray tables, frequently applying hand sanitizer and never, ever, walking into an airplane bathroom barefoot.
We need to meet customers and colleagues in places that are deemed safe. Restaurants in some states are free to open up to 25% of capacity seating – they need our business and we should hold lunch and dinner meetings. Outside is perhaps the best place to meet as wind and natural distance keep us safer than recycled air indoors, so meet a client at the golf course or bring coffee to a park.
Don’t shake hands, at least, not right now. No one will be offended and this demonstrates a level of respect to the other person that shows you care about them, their family, and your own. Be considerate and understanding to those who want to still stay indoors – they may have a relative that is in a high-risk category or simply are not yet confident that the storm has passed.
We have an opportunity to pull ourselves out of this nosedive – there’s still time. But we need to lead the way. The frequent travellers of the world need to get back on airplanes, in hotel beds, renting cars and taking clients to restaurants. We need to prop them up for a little while and show the world that it can be re-entered safely. We must be cautious and thoughtful of how others view us out in the world. We must be an example, and if we are successful, we can make it out of this nightmare.
What do you think? Is it the responsibility of frequent travellers to rebuild the travel world? How do you plan on getting back to work?