To paraphrase an old song, "Fish gotta swim, we gotta fly." In other words, even I, who hates flying, have to acknowledge that air travel is an integral part of the meetings experience.
But what kind of experience? While gripes are common, last year they caused new passenger rights rules to go into effect on August 23, 2011. These required airlines to take pro-consumer actions. Some of the new regulations include refunding baggage fees for lost luggage, and more funds to passengers for involuntary bumping them from overbooked flights. The rules also addressed foreign carriers and international flights for planes stuck on the tarmac for over four hours. Rules about cancelation notification and refunds were also included.
Has any part of the passenger experience changed since the rules went into effect? Sahar Andrade, vp of Technology & Social Media Marketing at the Southern California chapter of the National Association of African Americans in Human Resources, shrugs. "These rules have always been in place in one way or another," says Andrade, who previously worked for an airline; "but never enforced, unless passengers who knew their rights, demanded them. Then they would have gotten them." For example: " IATA rules say that if the airline loses your luggage and you are in a city that is not your home, it has to pay for you to buy toiletries (toothbrush, sleep T, etc.), and I believe that price is up to $75."
"I have no problem with air travel," says Dave Maskin, NYC-based trade show booth traffic-builder and event entertainer. "I do travel quite a bit all over the country, and as long as I get an aisle seat, I have my iPod cranking and a good book to read, I have no problems at all."
The biggest change in flying, however, has nothing to do with the flight experience - it's airport security. Unlike Terry Callendrillo, CUSP, CHST, EMT-P, public relations liaison at the NYC Chapter of American Society of Safety Engineers (and a board member of the World Trade Center Rescuers Foundation), who has had challenging experiences with airport security, Maskin maintains that for him, that, too, is OK: "I know what I can and cannot take through security. I'm always prepared and ready to go through the scanners." But security affects the baggage experience, which affects Lisa Ann Krutzik, professional photographer and publisher of the Kaukana, WI-based American Wedding Project. "I am annoyed with the baggage fee thing," says Krutzik. "Because I have to take my important equipment, I want to be able to get my equipment right off the plane - not have the opportunity for some random person to steal it off the luggage pickup line."
For Krutzick, it's the extra fees that get her down. "It won't make me stop flying," she says, but: "I found myself thinking hmm...with the baggage fee, car rental, airline ticket...the only thing stopping me from driving to Florida from Wisconsin is time."
For those nostalgic for the Golden Age of air travel, read Creating Events with an Airline Theme (Tips from a Former Flight Attendant). And for those held up at the airport, read Paid Access Airport Lounges.