Security checks have increased and expanded. Eurostar, which once used to check passengers only on a random basis, now subjects all to scrutiny. Airlines in America, long sold as being as ‘easy to board as a bus’, have had to adapt their products to rigorous airport procedures, procedures which underline that air travel is no longer quite like getting on the proverbial bus. These are procedures which inevitably add time and, by implication, cost to any journey.
Airlines are asking passengers to arrive earlier for flights and more time is spent between check-in and boarding, standing in various queues to be checked, having check-in validated and waiting at the departure gate. The raft of procedures, all of which can be affected by the number of staff on duty in relation to the number of procedures, has made this time much more variable.
And no more does the possession of a boarding pass guarantee that the plane will not leave without you. Modern baggage tagging means that your luggage can much more easily be identified and off-loaded. Arriving at a gate to find that your flight has departed is not unheard of.
There is also the issue of indirect costs. When governments impose rules, they do not as an automatic response also put up the funding to pay for any changes.
Increased security checks mean more airport labour and that will mean greater charges passed on to the airlines in either increased landing fees or increased rental costs for check-in desks etc. And inevitably airlines’ increased costs are reflected either in price hikes or decreases in service.
The most important part of any journey is not the length of seat pitch or quality of food and wine on board but merely getting there. No-one would begin to argue that passenger safety should be compromised to keep fares down but there is effective, cost-effective security and there is paying lip service to security.
Tenacious news reporters regularly unveil lax procedures at certain airports. These reports do make you wonder what happens on all the flights at all the airports in the world where a journalist is not present to monitor and expose inadequate measures.
The fact that airports practise security does not mean that we should cease being vigilant. Ordinary lay people too have a responsibility to stay alert and aware.
But what does this increased security mean for business travellers? More time at the airport but this is time that savvy business people are now accommodating rather than fighting.
Airports have translated this extra time into selling space to high-quality retailers.
Shopping at the airport, once a leisure traveller’s pursuit, is big business for business travellers. They may be time- poor but business travellers need shirts, ties, shoes and make-up just like anyone else. Shopping becomes an efficient way of using up the time.
So too does working. Once upon a time, business travellers tried to rush through airports as quickly as possible because the most efficient way to work was to stay at the office for as long as possible. Now the ubiquitous laptops, mobiles and palm pilots mean that all of us can work on the move.
Whether it means we’re more productive is still open to debate.