Time Travel…

At times it seems I travel a lot. I am UK based, but work for a global company with four separate facilities (and its headquarters) in the US…and operations in France, Germany and China. In addition, at least 50% of the partners we work with are US located. And my boss is US based as well. In short – there are lots of people and places to visit.


When I fly to the US, I always fly on a UK airline. I find it is easier to be on a flight where the majority of passengers are ‘in the same time zone’ as me. This is most evident on overnight flights back to the UK – normally leaving around 8:00pm US. My body clock tells me its 1:00 or 2:00am…and time to sleep. For anyone on US time its 8:00pm – time to eat, talk and watch a film.


I always travel with the same transatlantic airline. This is partly me being a ‘creature of habit’, but also is based on company deals. I know which seats I like on which planes. I know which planes I like on which routes. I know the airports, terminals, transfers, and where to get the best coffee.


At some airports I recognise the check-in teams (interesting). At others they recognise me (scary).


The airline I travel with most often prides themselves on client experience and customer relations. The majority of cabin crew (and ground crew) I interact with are engaging, helpful, sincere and – at times – amusing. None of which can always be easy – they must come into contact with such a spectrum of customers, each with their own demands and expectations, needs and desires. Like everyone else I assume I am unique. But they must see passengers like me all the time.


The Cabin Service Director (CSD) has changed title several times – I guess Chief Steward was a little old fashioned. But it is obvious that there is always a team leader on board in the cabin…with the Pilot – who is ultimately accountable for the plane (and the passengers) – ensconced in the cockpit…often only identifiable by an abstract voice at the start and end of the flight.


I have a gold card with the airline. I am never sure if that is good or bad, but it is true. It means I travel a lot with them. They say ‘welcome back’ when they see my membership number on my ticket as I get onto the plane. This sounds good, but they welcome everyone on board with a smile, so the difference between my greeting and that received by everyone else is small.


I realised at the end of last week – as I returned to the UK after another week on the US East Coast – that if I am ever upgraded to a higher class of travel (not as often as some may think) then the CSD will always seek me out personally, will introduce themselves, shake my hand and will thank me (as a Gold Card Holder) for my continued support of their airline.


If I am not upgraded, and sit in my regular seat, then the CSD never comes and finds me.


I am the same passenger in each case. I travel frequently and yet am only ever greeted and thanked personally when I end up in the higher class of travel. It feels strange this discrepancy. Almost disingenuous.


I wouldn’t mind if I was never welcomed personally…or always. It’s just the idea that this particular, personal dimension to my experience feels so different dependent on whether I have (apparently) paid more (or less) for my service.


It makes no sense.






About Steve Street

I have worked in R&D within the Pharmaceutical industry for over 30 years. Up until April 2012 all of my career had been with one company, but that has now changed. I left that company and took up a new role on May 1, 2012 - still very much within the Pharmaceutical industry and again based in the UK. I have been blogging every week now for over 10 years but only on an external site since January 2012. Email updates of the blogs can be requested using the ‘follow’ option within Wordpress. The blogs are only ever my personal view of what I see, think and feel. I am delighted if you agree and find value; happy if you disagree with my views and overjoyed if you feel motivated to comment. Most of all I am simply grateful that you read. Cheers Steve
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2 Responses to Time Travel…

  1. Chris B says:

    I’ve found myself travelling a lot these days and I always set myself a challenge when flying – to get a genuine smile from the cabin crew rather than a mechanical / synthetic one. Getting a real smile is easier than you may think, even when travelling coach (which I invariably do)… Showing genuine appreciation for the flight, asking about them are almost always sure-fire winners… But doing it is addictive – the pleasure of giving something back is its own reward.
    The challenge I still struggle with is US immigration… I don’t know if it is experience or they’ve got better but at leasat now I now don’t approach the desk with trepidation (‘has my ESTA expired?, what if they don’t want to let me in?, what if they send me to the back of the line for not filling the customs form in properly?…) however getting a smile from them, even when you have a couple of minutes of 1:1 time is tough. They are professional, focussed on doing their job – really tough to crack… However, I succeeded last week in an ironic way – having commented that I was glad our plane was 1/2hr late arriving as I didn’t have to queue to get to the desk (that’s never happened before). The guy looked up and laughing said “we were hoping you would be delayed for another hour – we wanted to watch ‘the game'”. A laugh from US immigration – that’s a real win and a great way to enter the US!

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