Dear Yanni...How will the Coronavirus impact business travel?
tl;dr: In this week's column, Yanni discusses germs on a plane and proper boarding etiquette.
I'm supposed to be traveling to Europe for work next month, but after the recent outbreak of Coronavirus my company is considering canceling the trip. Is that really necessary? What're your thoughts?
- Fearless in Fairfield
Coronavirus has triggered concerns from the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan, to the rest of China and the world. The travel industry, that exists as the marketplace for physically connecting people, has reacted pointedly and perhaps severely by completely cutting connections to China. Whether the measures are incompatible with the severity of coronavirus remains to be seen, in particular when considering that the strains of seasonal flu this year have already hospitalized many more people globally. However, the impacts to travel are being considerably felt.
During the past decade, in particular after the last recession, the US catered many of its major tourism destinations to Chinese inbound tourism. Cutting flights from China overnight is bound to impact this sector. Add to that heightened concerns about exposure in general, and one can expect travel and tourism will be taking a hit in Q1-2 this year. But what about business travel?
Of course, global companies with relationships or offices in China have already had their hand forced with the cutting back of flights, and many are left wondering how to plan out activities for the rest of the year. If we take a similar epidemiological event, like SARS or perhaps H1N1, one can anticipate roughly 3-4 months of disruption. While this may not be viable for all, it may make sense to plan for APAC visits at the end of Q2 early Q3 this year, or to consider scheduling out company summits later in the year.
Should businesses cancel overseas trips? No, but rescheduling is reasonable or adapting to convene remotely would likely be appreciated by customers and employees alike. Don’t forget about the tools most companies already use daily. Many of us work remotely at least part of the time, or self-quarantine when we are sick because of the ease of technology in doing our daily work. This can be an appropriate time to apply those rules and host remote meetings-- perhaps even beef up office infrastructure to support more robust remote meetings with tools like the Owl labs meeting cameras or Zoom-enabled meetings that focus on video components. Messaged well, this can show that a company is mindful of workplace health and of not exposing clients to groups of traveling employees.
Coronavirus is still an unknown virus insofar as its impacts are concerned, but known tools will continue to keep us connected and perhaps even represent some savings for travel in later quarters this year.
What's the deal with boarding etiquette for planes? Is it OK to stand in line before your group is called? Which bin should overhead luggage go in? Help!
- Boarding Blunder in Boulder
TL;DR - Don't crowd the boarding area. Wait until your group is actually up next to head over. And try to put your carry-on luggage in the overhead bin closest to your seat, not just any old place.
In our daily navigations of life there exist an abundance of unspoken rules on etiquette. Maybe it’s that we tend to walk to the right to make way for those walking in the same direction. Or that we stand right on an escalator. Although, good luck in Britain or ex-British colonies to make sense of the sometimes-same sometimes-inverse approaches. The unspoken rules also apply to air travel. The issues that emerge is when we aren’t all in alignment as to whose etiquette prevails.
There once was a time in air travel where boarding was announced and all stood up and formed a line to board. These days there are many subcategories of boarding, with upwards of 10 different boarding groups from elite statuses, families, veterans and active duty, boarding by class and boarding by economy class subgroups. It can lead to a heck of a lot of confusion on who gets up when and how quickly they are meant to get on. To add to the complication, boarding gate areas can be very crowded if there are more people than seats available, which leads to folks standing around waiting for their respective boarding group announcements. What to do?
First, don’t crowd the boarding area. Keep in mind that fellow passengers with families, special needs or who will require additional time need to get through. Second, don’t assume you’re up next to board the aircraft. Some airlines have lots of statuses that board at different times, some in advance of business passengers, others not and others at the same time. Third, if you do need extra time, it’s best for all that you take it. Airlines will offer that up to passengers and it’s ok to ask for the additional time if you need it; it will make the boarding process faster for all anyway. Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, don’t feign ignorance. We all have seen the passengers in boarding group 18 springing to action when boarding group 1 is called and encountering newfound bewilderment that it’s not yet their time to board.
The airport side etiquette doesn’t end when we make it to the jetway. An unspoken rule is to continue to remain in the order in which you entered the jetway until you’re on the plane. Don’t try to make a beeline for the aircraft door. When entering the plane, if you have luggage for the overhead bin, it belongs nearest to your seat rather than just any old place. Until or unless the flight crew asks for you to place luggage elsewhere, don’t presume you can drop your items off in row 11 if you’re in row 37. There’s also a reason why overhead bins are often closed. If you see the whole aisle down with overhead bin doors closed and just a couple open, you can safely assume those are likely the only bins left with space.
Here’s where things get tricky-- international travel. Whereas places like the US, Canada, UK, Germany may be well versed in accepted social norm assertions with respect to lining up and boarding at a specific time, those rules can go right out the window in other destinations. The key here is to not let it get to you, understand that yes, check in could go more efficiently curbside and boarding could be more efficient and equitable at the gate, but there are destinations where this simply is either not enforced or simply not followed. In these circumstances you may find lines informally coming together or a bum-rush to the gate upon an announcement. Play the situation by ear and follow visual cues from others, but don’t assume that the same rules as home apply abroad and don’t get frustrated when your idea of etiquette isn’t mirrored elsewhere. The best thing any of us can do is model the behavior we wish to have others follow, rather than rebuke that others’ behavior don’t meet our unsaid expectations.