You read Australian Business Traveller, you have strategies for minimising stress and maximising frequent flyer points, you're a packing ninja -- in short, you're firmly in the "advanced traveller" camp.
Over the years I've put together my own set of tips to take this to the next level. With a tip of the hat to the late business guru Stephen Covey, I consider them the seven habits of the highly effective business traveller.
1. Check in as soon as you can
If your flight is even slightly mission-critical, you'll want to check in ASAP -- and that usually means online. Highly effective business travellers set a reminder for themselves (or a clued-in colleague) to check in.
Checking in early gets you the best choice of seats on board -- which will maximise your inflight productivity or relaxation. (If you have a colleague doing the check-in for you while you're travelling or in a meeting, check out our Best Seats guides and give them a few tips on what seats you like and dislike: yes to bulkheads, no to windows, nothing at the front of the cabin, that kind of thing.)
And if something goes wrong -- the flight is horrendously oversold or the plane is replaced by a smaller one, and someone has to be bumped -- it's usually the people who wait to check in until they get to the airport who get the red "bleep" on the airline's systems.
2. Always know where your lounge is...
It's always handy to know which lounge you're heading for, and whereabouts in the terminal it is.
Not all airports are mapped well, many are confusing, and some have more than one lounge for the same airline or airline alliance.
Know which lounge you want -- whether it's the largest, the smallest, the closest to your gate, the one with the showers -- and how to get there.
3. ...and know how far the lounge is from the gate
When arriving at the lounge, find out how long it should take you to walk to the gate, and what time boarding will finish. Certain airports like Frankfurt and Heathrow are especially walking-prone, and pelting at Olympic speed down the corridors with your rollaboard is a surefire way to start off your flight badly.
Often, lounges don't make boarding calls, so you may need to keep an eye on the time. (Make sure your watch/phone/laptop is on the right time zone, of course!)
4. See if there's a pair of empty seats
While direct aisle access is a real boon to business travellers, there are many airlines that still require business class passengers in window or middle seats to bound like a gazelle (or hippo, depending) over the aisle person.
Ask at check-in, at the lounge and on board whether there's a spare seat next to you that can be blocked off so that you have spare space in flight. The worst they can say is "no".
5. Check your seat's in full working order before takeoff
Even on the best airlines, there are occasionally maintenance issues that mean your seat doesn't work as it should. Airlines can often fix things before departure when maintenance people are around.
If they can't fix it, seats are usually fixed on departure, whereas things can be jigged around before leaving (by moving an airline employee flying at a reduced rate to another seat, for example).
I check that the seat:
- is clean
- reclines completely
- has a working table
- and its entertainment system are functional
- comes with a juiced-up power point
(Note that the latter two may not always be activated on the ground.)
6. Snag spare pillows and blankets
If you want a spare pillow or two, ask as soon as you can in case they run out. While checking that your seat's recline works, figure out if you'll need to pad any bits of it with pillows and blankets to make it more comfortable.
The same "ask early" advice goes for blankets if you tend to be cold, or if you like to pad your seat.
Extra pillows and blankets are especially useful if you're taking our advice to make angled lie-flat seats more comfortable.
7. Introduce yourself to the person in charge
On the very best airlines, the head cabin crew members (who might be called the purser, cabin crew manager, leading stewardess, cabin director or similar) will introduce themselves to business class passengers.
If they don't, seek them out once you're in the air and introduce yourself. Find something to compliment, explain that you're a frequent flyer and that you're looking forward to a relaxing/quiet/productive/sleep-filled/gourmet/drink-fuelled flight.
Consider asking that the crew keep your coffee/tea/water/wine/beer/Coke filled up, or mentioning that you detest fish but forgot to say when booking. It's amazing how much your flight can be improved by getting the head honcho to take an interest in you.
How did you score?
- 6-7: you're a highly effective business traveller. Relax in the most comfortable seat on the plane and share your secrets with fellow travellers in a comment below.
- 4-5: getting there! Keep on picking up tips while you shoot envious looks at that person who managed to pick up your favourite seat.
- 1-3: courage, grasshopper: everyone started somewhere. Set aside some time to learn from others' hard-won tips -- and follow us on Twitter for the very latest. We're @AusBT.