On the road again

Business travel is supposed to be glamorous, isn’t it? Well after many years as a road warrior, clocking up 250,000 miles in each of my last 2 years, I can assure you it isn’t. Delayed flights, over-zealous security checks, poor food, indifferent hotels, no access to wifi, all of these make life on the road a trial. A test of stamina, resilience of spirit and good humour. I am pleased to say that I invariably failed all of these tests. I hated business travel.

Yesterday I set off with great trepidation. Like a prizefighter making a comeback when he knows he is well past his prime the butterflies were churning in my stomach. To start with I no longer have top tier frequent flyer status. That means no first class check-ins, no free buggy rides to the first class lounge and no fawning crew on board the aircraft telling me how wonderful it is to see me again. This despite the fact that many mispronounce my name and after a decade of flying the same airline they still haven’t twigged that offering me copious amounts of alcohol is a no-no. It might dull the pain of travel but it would also kill me. Sometimes that seemed an attractive option. I recall vividly flying out of Karachi on a delayed flight one night. Midnight ticked by and and an attendant appeared with a bottle of champagne. We were out of the dry zone of Pakistani airspace. Happy Birthday Mr. H, she said. ***** off said Mr. H., ever the master of wit and repartee.
Well I survived the check in process and even the humiliation of the Business Lounge. Luckily nobody who knew me saw me. I was then fully prepared for my least favourite airline to have put on the usual vintage aircraft, tired in decor (any decorators out there want to have a go at splashing paint over the inside of the ‘plane?) and with a menu to disgust even the least discerning of palate. Well the food met my expectations but the aircraft had had a refit and the seat was quite spacious and comfortable. I was in row 18 but it starts at 11 (few airlines have first class these days but it is clearly too much hassle to renumber the rows) and, food aside,  the only complaint was the seemingly reduced number of washrooms.
I did some work, watched 2 Cantonese movies (with subtitles thankfully) and read an entire book on my iPad. So passed 9 hours of tedium. Then the wheels started to come off. Figuratively at least. Dubai immigration. Unluckily I still qualified for the FastTrack queue. Normally Dubai doesn’t open this counter but as it was open last night I decided to give it a try. Big mistake. It seemed that Fast was actually Slow and all the normal channels were Fast. After 20 minutes they opened a second channel. So all the people behind me reversed out and went to the front of the new queue leaving me at the back of the old one. The public wifi wasn’t working so no internet either. After almost an hour I was at the front of the queue, stamped and waved through.
The next shock was not having a hotel limo waiting for me. How times change. I wandered about looking for something someone had told me about called a taxi. These turned out to be small cars where you can be driven to your destination in return for a modest fee. Quite a neat idea in fact. I wonder if it will catch on. For a mere AED60 I was whisked to the haven of rest knowni n the trade as The Ritz Carlton.
I went up to my room and opened the door. It compared very favourably with the apartment we bought  for our children in Hong Kong last year. You could certainly park a couple of family cars in the bedroom, assuming you could get them up to the 11th floor. The bathroom was and indeed is larger than our family kitchen with a choice of washbasins, wet room for the shower and a bath adjacent. My only gripe is that I can’t work out how to open the curtains. There must be an instruction booklet somewhere. I even have to admit that the bed is comfortable and the aircon works.
It was 4 am HK time when I crashed, midnight local time. Four hours later I was wide awake. I have finally had breakfast and now I need to find out how to get to the office. Despite being disappointed with the smoothness of the trip, except for immigration, I have decided that being a road warrior in 2013 is no more attractive than it was in 2011 when I threw the towel in. You can’t change the dry, prickly, recycled air of the aircraft cabin and you can’t do anything about the time zone change. So with a dinner tonight I shall have another late night on the HK clock and my brain will be slowly grinding to a halt by 8pm local time.
Being downgraded from all my perks wasn’t too bad after all. And the upside was that I was actually being paid to go through the assault course. Naturally Mrs. Ha will probably have pre-spent my fees but if there is any left I think I may just treat Lulu to an extra packet of kangaroo and lamb biscuits. Beats the food on my least favourite airline any day.



13 thoughts on “On the road again

  1. Good grief! I have not a clue of why you are subjecting yourself to travel torture. What a trip. Sounded awful but the reading about your trials and tribulations sure was interesting. It was almost like being there. Are you able to squeeze in any photography? On second thought that was probably a stupid question. I truly pray that all goes well and that you have a safe trip back home.

  2. Business travel is ok so long as you don’t have to do too much of it.

    The odd internal flight, ie around the UK was all right. But I got hellish bored with catching the 5.30am train down to London for nine/ten o’clock meetings, even if it was first class, meals included, parking space etc. Just tedious.

    Newcastle to Edinburgh was a nice route though up the coast.

    Do hope there was a decent vegetarian option on Cathay Pathetic. My partner hasn’t worked on redecs of ‘planes, but can do a good line in ships, should you wish to complain about any badly decorated ships. Nor does he splash paint (I shan’t mention your description to him or I will be subjected to a tirade).

    Must be tough slumming it in business class. I’ve only ever flown plebconomy. Although in ye olden days before people started flying half way around the world for a weekend, the ‘planes were pretty empty and therefore extremely comfortable.

    But the last long haul flight we did was Sydney to UK. And we got the worst ever seat against the toilet so absolutely zilch room. Even I would fork out for business. I say that because I know I am highly unlikely to fly long haul, so it is a hypothetical comment, but the principle is there.

    Ah yes. That nasty recycled air. At least it shouldn’t be full of recycled cigarettes these days. I wonder when you will end up with a cold though. Can’t really avoid the recycled germs.

    Have a good day at the office. And the dinner.

    • Strangely enough I did have the vegetarian option as everything else looked even more inedible. I felt I could safely identify the mushrooms. I quite like rail travel. The noise of the rails, the whistle, the steam, the hiss of coal………… Of course it’s a while since I actually went on a train. The Flying Welshman I think it was.

      • I meant flight not flat. I think the Gibraltar Flying Welshman was talking to me about redecing the flat. (not the flight). It would be good if you could change it TYVM.

        Mushrooms and noodles? Mushroom stroganoff? Veg options used to be pretty good, vegan ones were best because then they had to do a bit more creative thinking than a cheese omelette. Plus, you used to get served first 🙂

      • Mushroom strog sounds fantastic with perhaps just a teensy weensy little bit of beef. Maybe a meagre 8oz? Followed by a vegetarian wafer thin mint.

        Mr. Creosote.

      • Actually a mushroom strog style meal is on the agenda when I have finished some boring domestics. Rather tasty tiny organic mushrooms (the larger cheaper ones weren’t available) with some tasty seitan pieces. And some basmati rice which the Welshman who learned to cook rice in a Welsh Chinese chippy will be in charge of. No mints available here.

  3. Sounds delightful. I think I’ll stay with my basic tenet…..if I can’t drive there in a day then I won’t go. Guess I will have to fly again some day…right now I am at 25 years since the last and only.
    Your accomodations sound reasonably comfortable at least.

      • Meaning less than an hour? 🙂

        When I travel to Maine it is around 6 hours with one stop. When Mary Beth and I travel together it is with more stops so lots of leg stretching. I say a day’s drive but 10 hours would constitute a day. I hope to meet up with Greg next summer so I guess a flight will be in order then. I doubt that with my fear of heights…and sudden lack of said height…I would ever rack up the sort of frequent flyer milles that you must have accumulated.

    • Phil, air travel is not good for us, I quite agree. It was a prime consideration in giving up my job in 2011. This trip simply reminds me I don’t want to go back!

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