He’s flown First Class on the Emirates A380, business class on many other airlines, and circles the globe continuously for work.
A frequent business traveler of 13 years, “The Guy”, as he calls himself, has racked up over a million frequent flier miles, enjoys shorter queues to check-in and drop off luggage, fast tracks through the security lines, and then takes a comfy seat in the lounge before being one of the first to board the aircraft and having a comfortable, relatively wide reclining seat.
Sound like a pretty amazing way to travel? Welcome to the life of a frequent business traveler!
What do you love the most about travelling?
I love so many things about travelling. The sense of adventure, discovery and even just the actual “going”.
The vast majority of my travel is for work so I’m often sat in airports, on planes or a taxi. I am very fortunate that I am able to travel Business Class for a lot of long haul trips so I just sit back and enjoy the ride (so to speak).
What inspired you to start travelling?
My first real venture into proper travelling was in the summer of 1993 when I went interrailing around Europe for a month with 3 friends. I didn’t really do much long distance travel after that until the year 2000.
In the spring of that year my previous employer gave me an opportunity to work on a project based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. I initially agreed to go out on the project for 5 months yet ended up staying for 17!
This project opened me up to frequent long haul travel as a way of life.
Since Saudi Arabia does not score high on places to visit or live for non-muslims or western people the project was designed with various incentives. As well as the usual pay increments there was also a week per month off work (on top of your annual leave) with either a business class flight home or a flight allowance so you could go anywhere you wanted in the world.
Naturally most of us took advantage of this and I began flying off to all sorts of places (Australia, Malaysia, Egypt, India, California etc) for my week’s holiday every month.
Once the project ended for me I didn’t fancy going back to my legacy job back home. Thankfully an opportunity arose with a different employer to take on a role with global travel almost every month. This is what I do now.
Whilst my trips now are really for work rather than holidays I do still enjoy the adventure of going off somewhere. It is stimulating for the mind and provides fresh challenges.
What is ‘Flights & Frustration” all about?
First and foremost it is a personal travel blog. It is a testimony to my personal travel experiences. I’ve been taking international flights almost every single month (sometimes 6-8 flights a month) since May 2000. As a result I’ve covered the globe numerous times; my number of flights taken exceeds the 1,000 mark if not 2,000+.
The blog is slightly different from many travel blogs because I include a lot of reviews of my flight experiences, such as flying First Class on the Emirates A380, business class on other airlines, airline lounge and airport reviews.
Of course there are other things as well such as hotel and destination reviews.
The site also offers a very personal perspective as I relay my own reflections and experiences. I want to reflect what you really think when you go somewhere.
I deliberately chose to brand myself as “The Guy” for the blog because I wanted it to be the voice of that person or that “Guy” sat next to you on the plane, the bus, in that tourist spot….. I wanted to present an honest view of what travellers really think rather than dress something up as a marketing sales pitch for a brand.
Flights And Frustration was actually going to become an e-book. Then an unfortunate incident happened and things all changed. All of a sudden a blog as opposed to a book seemed like a better option.
You’ve been a frequent business traveller for 13 years. What line of work are you in to be able to cover the globe as part of your job?
Without going into too much detail, (out of respect for my employer since I like to keep my professional life within professional circles and not online) I work at the global headquarters for a multi-national, diversified, manufacturing and service company.
My role involves visiting our operations to assist and assess them on compliance with various procedures, plus various ad-hoc projects.
If people are looking to travel with their work then I’d certainly recommend looking for multi-national companies as employers, there are often great opportunities in a wide range of skill sets.
Do you manage to find time to actually experience a destination outside of office hours?
Sadly this is often difficult. My typical trip can often see me arriving somewhere late on a Sunday night then flying home on either a Friday evening or a Saturday morning.
Often all I see is an office and a hotel room. If I’m in the summer months then I can enjoy evenings out whilst the sun is still up.
I do get opportunities to explore from time to time though.
It is when I go on the multi-week trips (such as Canada, America or Australia) when I really benefit from having weekends free to explore.
Most memorable travel moment outside of office hours?
Oh that’s a toughie. One moment that always sticks in my mind as a “wow, did that really happen” moment was a long weekend I spent in Melbourne in November 2003. This more came about by chance than design.
Whilst Melbourne is an incredibly sport mad city I seemed to hit it on the most sport intense weekend of all time. Thankfully a colleague of mine is well versed in sourcing tickets so I was very agreeable when he told me of the various events happening and asked if I wanted to get a ticket.
The weekend began on the Friday night with my first ever trip to the famous MCG. The place had over 60,000 people packed in for what was the second match of an international rules match (compromise rules of Gaelic Football and Australian Rule Football (AFL) ) between Australia and Ireland. (I’m from Irish parents so was delighted to see Ireland win on the night although they lost the series).
The next day I joined my colleague and his group during the day time for the Melbourne Derby Day at Flemington race course. (This is part of the Melbourne Cup Festival.) We drank plenty, had a few winners and even caught some sun burn.
It was then a mad dash back to the hotel for a quick shower and change. I then met up with most of the same group to go to one of city centre football grounds. The Rugby Union World Cup was on and I was able to get a last minute ticket to see Australia play Ireland.
Wow, what an amazing sporting weekend and one I’ll never forget. The Tuesday after I rounded it off and went to the actual Melbourne Cup itself – but didn’t win a single race!!
What is the best thing about business travel?
Not having to pay for it yourself! Well, okay apart from that obvious one I am very fortunate that a lot of my travel is Business Class. As a result travel is less stressful.
I can use shorter queues to check-in and drop off my luggage. Fast Track through the security lines (unless it is Toronto airport – come on guys what are you doing in that airport? – 1 hour to get through security!). I can then take a comfy seat in the lounge before being one of the first to board the aircraft and have a comfortable, relatively wide reclining seat.
To be honest because I fly so much I doubt I would last many months if all my long haul travel was economy class – I’m sure I’d get DVT!
What frustrates you about travelling the most?
To be honest, it is other travellers. They can be so self absorbed, ignorant, rude and selfish.
Whether it be picking their nose in public, being exceptionally loud, on the phone, not complying with safety instructions, I could go on. I listed most of the things which frustrate me here.
Tell us about your most memorable flight.
I suppose because most of my flights go smoothly and are comfortable they all blur into one, you tend to remember the things that don’t go so well.
Such as when the undercarriage was frozen open and you had to fly back to your departure airport, when horrible turbulence hits or horrendous 48 hour delays. (I can slate a few airlines on my “never want to fly with again” list.)
To name but one memorable flight I can think of an internal flight I took in Saudi Arabia, back to Riyadh in 2001. It was a flight with the domestic carrier Saudia (who were recently listed in the top 10 of major carriers with a poor safety record).
The flight had been delayed many hours and we were stuck waiting at an airport in the north of the country to the early hours, we had work to go to the next day. As is often the case, I force myself to stay awake so I can hear the boarding calls.
Our flight eventually took off around 4am to arrive about 5 or 5:30am. We were shattered and I guess the pilot was too. We were coming in to land and must have been maybe 10-20 metres from ground level when the pilot pulled the plane back up rather suddenly.
It was at that moment that I remembered one of the runways at Riyadh Airport was closed as construction work was being performed. Various bits of equipment were on that runway. That was a scary near miss!
Do you have any tips for how to be the perfect in-flight passenger?
Being the perfect in-flight passenger means being courteous, polite and obedient. Please follow the instructions of the flight crew and follow the safety demonstration (these people are only doing their job).
Fasten your seat belt unless you specifically have to go to the bathroom or have to leave your seat. This includes keeping your seat belt fastened whilst the plane is taxiing, many people undue their seat belt but I’ve seen with my own eyes how dangerous this actually is.
It is also worthwhile developing a kind of sixth sense to know if the person sat next to you really wants to chat to you for the duration of the flight or they need some quiet time (it might be the only chance they have of quiet time that week).
What frustrates you the most when flying?
I think I’m generally tolerant of when things go wrong with the flight and there are delays. There are often many factors which influence circumstances so as a passenger we often don’t know the full details as to why things go wrong.
(Unless you are US Airways who delay your flight 26 hours plus due to a technical fault, don’t put you in a hotel or offer adequate compensation. – Can you tell that US Airways are on my black list?)
So what frustrates me most about flying is the irrational behaviour of some passengers when they think their circumstances are more important than everybody else’s.
Three things you can’t travel without?
Apart from the obvious ones like passport, travel money, credit card etc?
- I adore my kindle and bring it everywhere. I must admit to not being a great reader but always having it there is a great comfort and something to dip into.
- My ipod. It is a great way of shutting the world out from around you when you need some me I’m also quite into listening to podcasts at the moment, such as from Pat Flynn.
- My netbook. Well how else am I going to keep my blog up to date!
Which destinations are at the top of your bucket list?
I’m fortunate enough now to have seen most of the places I was curious about so I’m always looking for new inspirational places to go.
I think top of my list is to go to the Antarctic. Not only would I be lost for hours watching adorable penguins but I could then say I’ve been to all 7 continents.
Among other places I’d like to see are New Zealand, Pompeii and Easter Island.
Most practical piece of advice for those planning travel?
Have more than one copy of your itinerary/travel details and a copy of your passport and insurance.
I often keep a second copy stored in my suitcase which is locked in my hotel room along with a spare credit card. Then if I lose my main ones, or God forbid I am mugged then I have something to fall back on.
Why should people travel?
It is the greatest educator you could possibly experience.
Whilst I’ll never fully understand any culture completely I can at least learn to understand them with my own eyes and ears. I don’t want my view of the world to be pre-scripted by TV and print media. I want to experience it for myself and discover what this world really is.
Only travel can do that.
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