For once, a holiday trip 🙂 I know that the raison d’etre for this column is writing about, evaluating and giving tips for making business travel easier, funnier or just at least more bareable. But I’ll let this one sneak in.
On the way back from a long weekend in Lisbon with friends, we ran into a flight situation which was a bit on the dualistic side. On one hand, a delay that ended up running close to an hour with very little information from TAP as to when what would happen. Nary a word on the monitors either – which, I suppose, is why it didn’t get flagged to me by my trusted TripIt. Basically, if the airline does not update its systems, no-one in the world around knows about the issues. Whether sloppy, non-functional or just South European “so, what’s an hour between friends” attitude (and yes, I do realise that I am generalizing and stereotyping wildly here) – who knows.
On the other hand, all four of us got a “Beep!” from the reader at the gate upon scanning boarding cards. Business class for us. And here’s the thing: The flight’s long enough – and maybe TAP’s view of it is old-fashioned enough, bless them – for it to matter. More space – always a good thing. But also a menu card and time to peruse it before making your choice of main course and wine to the steward. Food, decent absolutely, served on porcelain with steel cutlery. This kind of thing doesn’t happen much on inter-European flights anymore. Which made it all the more enjoyable.
And surely, the reason the four of us, along with maybe three or four others, were chosen to sit in the front four seat rows was that two of us hold Star Alliance Gold and Diamond, respectively. So there’s the link to the business travel – it sprinkles a little fairy dust on your personal vacation travel once in a while. Another instance, as seen from my kids perspective, was when we skipped check-in / luggage queues by going to the Business Class counter access in a very busy FCO on a Monday morning after a Sunday with strikes a few years back. Certainly it suddenly was earning me some acceptance of time spent away on flights.
While on the plane, I saw a TV ad for a hotel chain on the video screens. The name eludes me – but what I mainly was thinking was that many of the things that the company was highlighting as features and benefits were some that I don’t fully agree with.
One of them was the combination of them having 350 hotels over 35 or more countries and “consistency and sharing the same values”.
You know what? I actually do not want to be treated the same way and feeling smug and comfortable in the same kind of surroundings no matter where I am. I like my hotel to signal to me where I am and I like to feel that there are actual, individual people living and breathing into where I am. That they care – not because it says so on page 57 of the franchise manual but because they make a business out of this because they enjoy it.
We just stayed three nights in a boutique hotel in Lisbon – the LX – and they got it pretty much right. Breakfast with what you’d want and expect – but the small bowls with nicely cut fruits just say so more than a large bowl of things on a buffet. More “here’s a serving for you” than “oh, we also have fruit if you wish.”
Rooms individually decorated with a big photostat related to Lisbon (I take it) on the wall behind the bed.
In the afternoons, a platter with traditional Portugese cakes of some sort and a bottle of Port was on the counter by the reception for self service. That so much signals not only hospitality but also “Hey! Remember, you’re in Portugal and these are things that we’re proud of!”
Of course, if this kind of thoughts and expressions is what the “consistency” in the large chain’s policies is about, that’s fine. In my experience, it’s not the most likely outcome, though…
And that’s it for this time. Hope you enjoyed it – if you have thoughts of your own on what’s the thing you’re looking for when you’re checking into a place to stay for a few days out there, I’d be happy to hear them and surely encourage you to share them in the comments. And whether you do or not – fly safely!
Photo courtesy of Peter Russell on Flickr