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What no lie-flat bed?

July 10,2016 15:07

At one event (in less austere times) fellow speakers laughed at me for arriving budget rather than business class. But an organiser at another event confided that she had once been forced to cancel speakers when the keynote insisted on business-class ...



LAST week your correspondent was put in a quandary. Having been booked to speak at an event in Ireland, the organiser sent through the travel itinerary. Ryanair. Not just Ryanair, but no-frills Ryanair: no priority boarding, no checked baggage and no option to choose seating. The cheapest of the cheap. I was mortified. Having recently been pleasantly surprised by a (pointless) business-class seat for a similar engagement, I now found myself at the opposite end of the value chain.My first instinct was to throw a hissy fit and demand that the organisers double check the flight, like a z-list celebrity shouting “don’t you know who I am?” at a maître d' when he can't get a table. Thankfully, the moment quickly passed and common sense took hold. This was the very definition of a first-world problem. If I had been booking a flight at my own company's expense I would have grudgingly used Ryanair too. Travel budgets tend to be fixed in absolute cost, which is to say that cheaper trips means more trips.Others don’t always see it that way. At one event (in less austere times) fellow speakers laughed at me for arriving budget rather than business class. But an organiser at another event confided that she had once been forced to cancel speakers when the keynote insisted on business-class flights, turning a “conference” into a “breakfast briefing” in the process.At the heart of this issue is a misconception: that speakers at conferences are doing the organiser a favour. The reality is usually more transactional. In exchange for filling a time slot, speakers get a platform to showcase their expertise. The benefits are mutual regardless of whether the flight includes free food and drink or not.Road warriors should be inured to the peaks and troughs that business travel brings. Travel is a means to an end. Business-class flights are nice but are wasted if trips are unsuccessful. Cheap flights can be unpleasant or exhausting when long-haul, but you still arrive in the same place at the end.In fact, business travellers will be more frequently asked to fly on budget carriers in coming years. The economic fallout from the Brexit vote is likely to cause cost-cutting across Europe. In times of corporate austerity travel budgets are usually among the first to suffer.In the end, the conference proved a success, and certainly justified attendance. But the flight back was typically awful. For the umpteenth time, on disembarking a Ryanair plane I made myself a promise: Never again. (Until the next time.)

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