Business travel evolves far too fast to worry about the past. Anything that happened before airline deregulation in 1978 is considered prehistoric, while anything between deregulation and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011 is ancient history.
So, here are seven things that matter about business travel right now, according to Business Travel Columnist Joe Brancatelli.
On-time ratings are wrong
The Department of Transportation issues on-time ratings for the nation’s airlines every month, but the numbers are wrong, according to the DOT’s inspector general. About one in four flights nationwide, usually flights run by commuter airlines providing code-share services for bigger carriers, are not tracked by the DOT. So, even though Southwest operated at just 63 percent on-time in January and JetBlue just 59 percent that same month, those carriers don’t have regional affiliates like American, US Airways, Delta or United, which have slightly higher ratings.
You can come home again faster
Good news for international business travel: new kiosks at airport customs and immigrations stations are speeding up re-entry into the United States. BorderXpress units, created by the Vancouver Airport Authority, have already expanded into at least five U.S. airports including Atlanta, Seattle-Tacoma, JFK, and Chicago’s Midway and O’Hare airports. The average wait time at Kennedy’s Terminal 4 has decreased to 17 minutes from 36 minutes.
Revenge of the Dreamliner
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner’s grounding last year was heavily chronicled and made the aircraft the butt of many air industry jokes, but the 787 is remaking longer-haul business travel. Last month, British Airways launched nonstop flights between Austin and London, citing the Dreamliner’s 20 percent more fuel efficiency than any other aircraft. Carriers will be able to connect two distant cities that don’t have huge passenger traffic. United Airlines will use Dreamliners in June for its new route between San Francisco and Chendu, All Nippon Airways will use it to connect Tokyo with San Jose, and Japan Airlines will use it on routes between Boston and Tokyo.
Slimline seats stink
To offset the extra space devoted to lie-flat beds and other premium-class chairs, airlines are jamming more seats into economy cabins using lighter-weight, ultra-trim “slimline” seats. The verdict? They’re not the least bit comfortable, with lack of padding and a reduced incline. The worst part is airlines won’t stop using them. United Airlines expects half of its 2014 capacity growth to be the result of slimline seats, which allow the installation of one or two additional rows of coach chairs per aircraft.
If you can make it there…
The New York-London route may be the key international route, but making it there is harder than it looks. Even Delta, the nation’s most profitable carrier, isn’t profitable in the center of the aviation universe. After years of effort, expanding market share and increased visibility, Delta has yet to turn the financial corner in New York. The airline promises that 2014 will be the year that it happens, but it also promised to improve its SkyMiles program, and we all know how that turned out.
You don’t want Israeli-style security
Every time the Transportation Security Authority does something wrong or a tragedy like the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 strikes, someone suggests the United States switch to “Israeli-style” security. Consider this: Israel spends about eight times more per passenger on security than we do. Duplicating the security style and scaling it for U.S. passenger volumes would add about $40 billion to the TSA’s current budget of $6 billion and would require three million security agents, compared to the current workforce of 50,000.
April in Paris is still a bad idea
Americans, even savvy business travelers, still dream about April in Paris. Not only is Paris cold and rainy in April, but Charles de Gaulle Airport is a dreary hub with a confusing layout and French pilots are threatening a strike. In case you were on the fence, this year may not be the year to live out the lyrics Vernon Duke’s great American melody.