I flew from Heathrow to the United States today, and, again, Iceland’s volcano intervened. Departure was delayed by more than two hours as the ash cloud blocked the route to Minneapolis, we were rescheduled onto a southern route that took nine hours rather than seven.
How will we do deals and manage global projects if travel connections become unreliable? Transatlantic travel is expensive and time-consuming: I spend over a thousand dollars on each round-trip hop, and plan a solid week of work when I’m over. There’s a lot of advance planning for meetings, materials and schedules to make best use of the time.
If there’s only a 50-50 chance of getting over, or it’s likely to be hours of delay, what needs to change?
Clearly things have to be more flexible, making earlier landfall in the US so that there are alternative flights to my destinations. Meetings can’t be planned for the day of travel ( no loss; they’re the worst ones anyway). Materials will have to be prepositioned, alternate local people will have to be available to attend in my absence, and backup plans for using WebEx or (as my seatmate from Microsoft reminds me) LiveMeeting to make presentations or participate in discussions will be essential
I’m no fan of these services: WebEx is half-duplex (only one person can talk at a time), requires separate logins to voice and video channels, and has low presentation quality (the delay in seeing a slide change is hugely annoying). I never have a good sense of the audience reaction to what I’m saying, and there are always problems with volume and distortion as my disembodied voice booms over the hall.
As a result of the ash cloud, my expected three-hour layover in Minneapolis was cut to 4o minutes, but I made the connection. The Wall Street Journal estimates that this will continue all summer, and that air fares will be 25% more expensive than last year, so I won’t be traveling so much anyway
Article of the trip: The Economist reviews the Dutch divestiture of it’s Caribbean holdings. There’s no depth, but it does review the geography and timing as the islands become townships of the Netherlands.