TOKYO — Columnist Lucy Kellaway suggests in her Monday column in the Financial Times (subscription required) that business travel should end. Why?
It is tiring. It is disorientating. It takes forever to get to the airport. Aircraft are horrible. You eat too much because you are bored. Your feet swell up. You get jet lag. You do not see your family. Then when you do see them again they are cross with you because they think you have been having a fun time and should now pull your weight. You are shattered and see no reason why you should pull your weight at all.
Business hotels are beastly with their dark wood panels, their overheated, over-airconditionitioned rooms with ugly curtains and windows that do not open. In them you feel lonely an alienated.
I could go on, but I’m getting bored reading this all again. Lucy does not present a strong argument against business travel, and never feels it necessary to give a perspective on how an end to business travel would affect the airline industry.
Instead, her “sensible alternative” to business travel is essentially using video conferencing. Yeah, surprise! But wait, there’s more. Instead of just going to the video conference room and talking to whoever it is in Los Angeles, Tokyo, London, or Hong Kong, you actually first spend “three hours, seven hours, 13 hours, or whatever” in a room that simulates flying.
These virtual flights would be idea for the businessperson who can only seem to get away from the office and get any actual work done while flying, says Kellaway. Once they land, and exit the virtual plane, they go do their video conference, and maybe stay at a local hotel too before coming back, uh, home on another virtual flight.
Just think about it, “The savings in costs would be prodigious, as would the saving in air fuel. There would be no jet lag, no flight delays, and no chance of being blown up in mid-air.”
Lucy, I agree that business travel is not a lot of fun, but I don’t think many executives really feel that the day spent flying is really all that productive. Video conferencing is going to cut down on the number of business trips, but it’s not going to replace them. People still need to meet in person and there’s usually only one way to do that over long distances… flying.
Business travel is here to stay.