Inside Air Travel.
Travel Tips [ETH] Extending the Pleasure Principle Combining business with pleasure always reminds me of that felicitous French custom, near the end of a meal, of asking for a little cheese to finish off the wine, followed, of course, by more wine to finish off the cheese... Not that you have to look very far these days for an excuse to build a holiday on the back of a business trip. Or vice versa. Airlines, tour operators and hotel chains are all hard at work undermining the Puritan Work Ethic with a smorgasbord of special offers for the "business extender," ranging from half-price hotel rooms (with "welcome" fruit baskets, flowers, Champagne and a "personal thank-you" from the assistant deputy house manager) to elaborately packaged mini-vacations (with "gourmet" dinners, tickets to a show, golf and tennis), insidiously favoring double occupancy. There's something for most tastes and proclivities, from parachuting and falconry to competition ludo. One of the wackiest weekend breaks I've come across is a "final fling" for divorcing couples (with an optional solicitor at the final dinner) at a hotel in Essex. How you rationalize it is up to you; the pause that refreshes or as a buffer for the rest and recreation to get your act together for vital meetings -- especially in a new time zone -- or in the cause of saving money. The Saturday night obligation on excursion fares becomes an opportunity for a weekend break with half-price hotel rooms in many business cities. Successful business extension needs both a strategic and tactical approach. Look after long haul trips and the side trips will look after themselves. You could describe the ideal extension as a kind of planned surprise getaway - the paradox is that thoughtful preparation can lead to impromptu discoveries. First plan your long haul itinerary for opportunistic stopovers. If you are flying business of full economy you may be able to earn a free airline package, say, in Madrid or Copenhagen, as a reward for flying through those hubs. Or combine a money-saving point-to-point fare on the way back with multiple stops on the way out. Always point out how much you're saving the company. ("In that case, Howard, you may as well take Fiona along." Or, "As long as you're in Hong Kong, Howard...") Piggyback as far as you can on expenses, and then take off with a local airpass or series of excursion tickets. Extending within Europe can involve some tricky management decisions. Let's say it's Friday in Vienna and your next appointment is 9 AM Monday in Paris. So do you fly home to Zurich tonight, or stay in Vienna? You'd have a chance to unwind, see something of the city for a change, or work on your expense account if you felt especially creative. Or you could fly to Paris and spend the weekend there, maybe bring your loved one (or what the trade calls your "significant other") over for a surprise treat. Whatever you decide, there's always the risk of becoming a victim of your own flexibility. Back at headquarters in Broken Springs, Colorado, they are plotting to dislocate your schedule. A weekend's golf - or, heaven forbid, a carefully wrought assignation - goes down the tube with a request you be in Munich on Sunday. In these days of instant communications, it's hard to go missing (although I have been known to check out of my hotel with the red message light still blinking). Professional extenders never permit business to interfere with pleasure. The secret is pre-emptive planning. You make sure that whatever pre-trip (or mid-trip) crisis occurs, you are included out. One way is to plan your own crisis: "Charles, I'll have to miss the emergency budget meeting; it's absolutely crucial I meet Karl in Frankfurt Friday... We can always talk on the phone." Two crises are better than one. So sandwich your golf break between two "inviolable" business meetings. Should you need to go off the air for opportunistic reasons, invoke a "field trip". ("Charles, Sven wants me to check out the crayfish stocks in the north of Sweden." Or, "Charles, you know this is the first time anybody has actually talked to our customers on the French Riviera.") An (almost) sure-fire way to prevent an extension being scuppered at the last minute is to make complex bookings that can't be changed without extreme penalties. A friend of mine in Ireland has developed this technique into an art form. Whenever he flies to Paris on business, he saves his company money by coming down to the Cote d'Azur for the weekend for a change of pollution. I've never understood the legerdemain, but we all enjoy his extension (and expense account). On Friday evenings at Nice Airport, crowd watching is good value when the flights from Paris arrive. There are groupies and weekend wives, a gaggle of executives on their way to lubricate a conference in Monte Carlo, machos in designer dungarees and ambiguous ladies with impatient poodles. On Monday mornings, the first flight to Paris is filled with suntanned executives who seem not quite to have decided whether they are on business or pleasure. I can think of worse kinds of identity crises. May 2, 2012
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