As an employee of a multinational company in India, chances are high that in order to keep costs low, you are not traveling business class for work. I am not.
I have been traveling 1 week a month, every month for the last 2 years. Most of these trips have been to the US or to Japan, the two biggest markets for my product. While I enjoy travel, long haul travel to the US for a week generally involves giving up weekends on each side to get full 5 working days in the US. This meant that, broadly, of the 52 weekends in a year, I wasn’t with my family for 24 of them. This is almost half of the total weekends in a year and has been a significant disruption for my family. Thus, not sustainable.
Over the last few months, I have been trying to get more comfortable with jet lag so that I can leave Delhi on Sunday night and go straight to work on Monday afternoon, as soon as I arrive in the US or Japan. This is exceptionally hard if you travel economy and if you do not use sleeping aids like Ambien.
I have also been trying to get out of the US on Friday evening so that I can get home by Saturday night. This is generally not easy. Weekend travel seem to have better connections. I’ve had three trips where I had to choose to leave on Saturday or deal with spending 8 hours in Heathrow, which is no fun.
I try to use some tricks to make traveling in economy more comfortable.
- As much as possible, stick to one airline alliance like One world or the Star Alliance. This means that airlines like Emirates, Etihad, etc that are not aligned to any network are out. Sticking to an alliance helps you build status on them. Status helps with:
- Faster check in
- Faster security clearance
- Better pre-reserved seating options when you reserve online
- If your company does end up flying you Etihad or Emirates or any of middle eastern carriers, you should look at the Alaska Airlines mileage program. It is very attractive. I’ve been thinking about ditching American AAdvantage because Alaska allows you to combine Emirates, Flying Blue and one world airlines all in a single program! How cool is that.
- Pick aisle seats as soon as your tickets are booked by going to the “manage your booking” section at the relevant airline’s website. Exit row seats costs extra unless you have status with the airline. See if your company will let you expense that.
- If you have no trouble sleeping on planes, pick a window seat so that no one disturbs you while you are sleeping.
- Try to negotiate with your managers to let you pay extra for premium economy seats. The extra 6 inches between seats help. The seats are broader too, which means that you have more space around you and for your luggage in the luggage bins on top. Chances are, if you travel a lot, you will not check in any luggage
- Carry an empty water bottle. Fill it up AFTER you are through security. Most airlines will not give you a water bottle if you fly economy. This means constantly asking for water as you dehydrate breathing dry air on the plane. Having your own water really helps.
- Use eyeshades & ear plugs so that you can sleep easy inspite of noisy kids and general commotion and noise in the cabin. Think about investing in noise canceling headphones. I haven’t done it since noise does not trouble me that much.
- Inform the crew not to disturb you for meal service, if you are on <6 hour flights and plan to sleep through it. A meal service in the middle of such flights is very disruptive.
- Buy “Headspace”. It is a set of great audio lessons that help some people meditate. They just help me go to sleep. 🙂
- Sign up for credit card that gets to free access to priority pass lounges. Lounges are great for layovers. Free internet, food and drinks and comfy seats all add up if you travel a lot internationally. Citibank offers such cards in India.
- Starwood preferred guest is the most awarding hotel loyalty program. You should sign up and try to stay at their properties if you can.
Hope this helps