Working it out!

KETH J FERNANDEZ looks at some of the new services and products on offer for business travellers
Meet me in the sky ... high-speed Internet on aircraft means the office travels with you

NO MATTER how much people try, travel just never gets less stressful. It’s the very products that are created to ease the arduous trip that turn around and ruin your immediate future.

Like mobiles, which seemed such a good idea at the time? Superb service coverage (roaming everywhere, even in the sky) and high bandwidth have  taken away all the old excuses: no more traffic or late night meetings as we’re all instantly reachable.
Then, of course, everything comes priced and sorted according to size. Even if the company picks up the extra cost, you’ve still got to keep track of the endless bills – or lose that claim.
To give the optimists something to be happy about, though, a look at the new services on offer or coming soon to a suitcase near you.
Web Watch
The Internet comes to our rescue yet again. The next wave of in-flight entertainment might well be infotain-ment as the mobile office in the sky gets a new lease of life with the high-speed Internet onboard aircraft.
As of this summer, Lufthansa will offer onboard access by using a system called Connexion by Boeing, allowing passengers to access the web and send emails at broadband speeds, priced from $9.95 depending on the length of the flight. This means airlines will eventually be able to stream audio and video content via the Internet to seatback monitors.
Boeing is reportedly also talking to Scandinavian Airlines Systems, Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways and Singapore Airlines. While the advantages are tremendous, can you imagine your boss setting one more, even more impossible deadline than usual for the latest ridiculous client presentation because he knows you’ll be able to work in-flight?

Transfer in style
The new way hotels are seeking to beat the competition? Why, deluxe airport-hotel transfer, of course!
Take the InterContinental Dubai’s tie-up with National Car Rental, which provides the hotel with a fleet of six Range Rovers complete with pro chauffeurs. You get to sit back in the sumptuous leather interiors of the world’s most prestigious SUV and get treated to chilled towels and Evian water as you sit back and count the minutes spent in commuter gridlock.
Posh indeed, but you would be well advised to ask about cost before booking into a hotel. And remember to ask for the Mercedes on the return ride to the airport – you want to leave in as much style as you arrived, don’t you?

Cards for all occasions
The other new trend we’re seeing is co-branded cards that give away free air miles for eating at hotels or free hotel stays for travelling a particular airline or both! Internationally, every-one from the Starwood and   Hilton to Japan Airlines and British Airways owns and distributes these little pieces of plastic.
The newest on the block is the Marriott, which expects to be launching the Marriott Travel card globally. The card works like a debit card and targets travellers who prefer to pre-pay travel expenses rather than worry about pre-payment vouchers. Agents are happy, too, because commissions are deductible up front.
As with any other product, there’s now so many of these in the market, it’s difficult to make an intitial choice. And is all that extra counting worth it? If it gets you free trips, perhaps it is.
On the other hand, the best card for you—whether airline or hotel, is the one affiliated with the programme that best accommodates your travel needs and desires.
Obviously, the choice of hotel programme should be based on your travel patterns, where you go, the airlines you fly, which hotels have the most properties in your area of business and how much you actually spend. At least one of the major hotels – and airlines – should be able to handle 80 percent of your needs, and it makes sense to choose such a one. By consolidating your future business, you can focus earning points in a single programme, resulting in more awards over the long term. Provided, that is, you keep counting.
Nothing that comes free ever came easy, now, did it?