Can you get bored
On the face of it, the idea sounds great, no more been stuck in one office, you get to fly to different countries, lots of nights in hotels ….the world is your oyster insert whatever other clichés you like here.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy what I do – and are thankful to be in a position to take on clients regardless of geography. But at what point does flying just become too much?
Do you draw the line at 2 flights a month, 6 flights a month, 6 flights a week?? ….my record was 8 flights in a week. This bundle of aviation joy consisted of Edinburgh > London > Mumbai > New York > Manchester plus connections. At that point, I thought it was all getting a bit silly and I thought I should really be cutting back.
Boarding a plane and turning left
It’s rare I fly economy now on anything over 45mins, client or vacation. Occasionally when I started commuting to Dubai I went economy, but after a couple of flights, you realize it makes more sense to use that time productively and fly business so you can work or catch up on some proper sleep. Emirates will comp you every 4 flights as a rule and once you have a few air miles you can use them to upgrade at the check-in desk for little cost if your client won’t stump up a decent flight allowance.
The first few times you get to board a plane before anyone else and ‘turn left’ or go upstairs onboard an A380/747, it is a great feeling. But then I’m rather shallow. It’s so nice to sit down in a comfy seat and actually relax and look forward to the flight, rather than seeing it as a necessary evil to get you to your client engagement on time.
You even develop your own favourite seats depending on airline and plane. Always window for me, and near the bar. Read about my favourite seat here.
Why isn’t everyone else wearing a suit?
Sometimes you are travelling against very tight timescales so the idea you have of flying the night before to be taken to a hotel so you can enjoy the spa before getting a good 9hrs sleep then getting dressed in your recently pressed 3 piece is far from reality. I certainly don’t miss being surrounded by a sea of football shirts and tracksuits (I always fly out of Manchester at the start of any journey) whilst I am there in there in my Ted Baker or Reiss 3 piece ensemble….although I take my tie off, I’m not a complete twat.
This gets worse if you are flying economy, and one of reasons I don’t anymore. People give you very strange looks. I made the mistake in economy of offering my linen jacket to the air hostess for her to hang up for me – she looked at me like I had just pissed on her kids, then she continued with the 6 cans of Stella for the family on the row in front of me. Then since it’s impossible to get your laptop out due to the lack of space you try and get some sleep the best you can in a seat which doesn’t turn into a bed! So, as a result, you walk off the plane looking like an investment banker walking out of Stringfellows at 3am. Complete with the smell of cheap perfume sticking to your clothes courtesy of whatever was cheapest in duty free when the hen do from Stockport (shit chav town for those not aufaix with Northern England) walked through.
One perk of travelling all the time is the points, but this does turn you into the dreaded points whore. This is quite common amongst consultants that travel. The downside is there is never one membership which covers all your needs or destinations. Having to explain to the wife that we can’t stay in a certain hotel as I won’t get points is hard to argue at times. Likewise picking flight times that are slightly less than ideal just so I can get the tier points and lounge access becomes a common occurrence.
Airport food isn’t great, everyone accepts that. It does get better in the business lounges but that varies massively on airports and who’s lounge you are in.
A downside of travel, especially long haul is that you are always eating and lose all sense of meal times. Even though you probably ate at home before going to the airport, as soon as you see the buffet it is hard to stay away. Free food and a choice of dishes, or rather technically you’ve paid for it in your business ticket price so you have to get your money’s worth don’t you.
As such any diet or healthy eating plans go out of the window. I tend to put on 2-3lbs a month when travelling a lot. It’s all self-inflicted though.
For example; having chicken masala and a pint of Cobra for breakfast in Mumbai probably isn’t something your body will thank you for later, but we do it anyway ….when in Rome. Especially if you are flying Emirates. Their business lounges are the best for food, great mix of Asian and European fare. But strangely I’ve always found their business meals whist onboard pretty bland. I’ve found that British Airways First consistently does the best food above 20,000ft.
When was the last time you passed up free champagne? It’s hard to do, really hard. Ok if I’m flying straight to a clients office I’m not going to hit the Johnny Walker at 06:00. But when flying the day before or when you are flying home it’s a different story …especially when you are flying home. The number of times I’ve had to get the Emirates chauffeur to open my house door as I can’t remember how a key works are too frequent according to my wife!
I always use the opportunity to try the stuff that I never normally buy. So that obscure wine or the local beer is the things I hit first. But always seem to end up on vodka, via espresso martinis.
Again this varies on the airlines you are flying with as to the quality of your drinking enjoyment. American Airlines lounge in LAX is a great bar to leave California. A proper bartender with a fully stocked bar, “awesome”, as the locals say. The Concord Room at Heathrow is great for top end wine and champagne but that’s for First Class tickets so I won’t talk about it here, see my other post on The Concorde Room
Or my review of British Airways First Class.
There are 355 days in the year right?
If you need your 8hrs undisturbed beauty sleep a day then this isn’t the gig for you. Days will blur into each other as you board a plane in the afternoon whilst in Europe and get off it the next morning at your Asian destination after only 90mins sleep. You may think that a 3hr lay over in a decent airport lounge will allow you to get some shut eye. But then have you tried sleeping in a wooden chair as it completes the lounges Bauhaus look. Or even on a bar stool. As I said earlier, who passes up free champagne.
Time is money
Since you spend hours flying you start to view time spent in airports changing planes as wasted. When you first start out you allow lots of time for transfers in airports. After a while, you start playing air traffic control roulette with your connecting flights. If you have the option of allowing yourself 30mins to get off the plane at Heathrow, clear customs, pick up your bag, change terminal and then rechecking to your domestic connection or giving yourself 2h30min for the same connection, naturally you go for the 30min one and pray to the ATC gods that rain is delaying the departing aircraft by 15mins at least as you run like a madman through the airport ….after spending 6hrs drinking on the plane!
Sometimes the airport gods conspire against you. Not so much with international flights, but domestic flights at the end of the week are always a roll off the dice if you are getting home or not. Read about one such rant here.
Daddy’s in Dubai
Needless to say that if you are flying a lot you won’t be at home every evening. I think my worse stint was seeing my wife and 1yr old daughter for 6 days in a month. So having a snowflake wife won’t work here. But most airlines have WiFi and cellular signal so my daughter got used to what the bar onboard an A380 looks like before she could even talk. Plus I’m not going to claim poverty here, I don’t do this for a smile and a pack of crisps. You just have to weigh up what’s important and have a super understanding wife.
Thus ends my brief insight into flying around for a living. It’s highly enjoyable and well worth the opportunity. Just be mindful when you starting hitting over 50 flights a year as it does take its toll on you and your family.