REMEMBER the days when you would join a calm procession of work-bound jet setters boarding the plane, often dressed to the nines, and watch them get down to business shortly after take-off.
As soon as the seatbelt sign is turned off, they would reach into the neatly packed overhead locker, get out their laptop and fire it up before typing away frantically – as if they were being paid a tidy sum for every minute of mid-air time.
Those days now seem to be but a distant memory, with even the most seasoned flight warrior moaning that unless you are up the pointy end of the jet, your rush for in-flight business productivity is dead and buried.
Before you point the finger at the increasingly close quarters in cattle class, courtesy of shrinking seat sizes and disappearing leg room, think again.
Ask any frequent flyer and they will be quick to point out the top reason for ditching their briefcase in-flight is escalating on-board turbulence of a different kind.
That turbulence, they argue, is the direct result of etiquette standards descending faster than an aircraft without engine power because most passengers view their time in the air through a prism of self-interest with little regard for the comfort of others.
It starts with gate lice who congregate around the departure gate way ahead of the scheduled boarding time. They push their way on board and hijack the overhead lockers with their over-sized carry-on luggage to leave little space for the business traveller’s work tools.
The result: briefcases, laptops and meeting notes stashed in a remote part of the aircraft – away from the business traveller’s seat – to make access a challenge and potentially delaying the much-needed expedited disembarkation.
Then there is the current ambiguity around the thorny matter of seat-reclining etiquette.
Many business travellers argue that fellow passengers who recline at any stage of a journey are morally bankrupt individuals who terminate your opportunity to deal with an overcrowded in-box.
Consider also the vexatious issue of the business traveller’s seat allocation – smack bang in the middle of two vacationers. While middle-seat syndrome delivers a raft of challenges, being sandwiched in the middle of two irrepressible conversationalists who hog the common armrest will kill off any chances of work.
This leads to discussing the ascent of one of the more perverse problems facing the in-flight labourer: seat sprawl.
It involves a passenger invading the business traveller’s own personal seating space to leave the would be worker hanging out over the aisle, only to be hit by every passer-by including the flight attendants’ trolley to destroy any hope of tackling a burgeoning to-do-list.
Then there is the odouriferous seat mate who passes wind on the sly, the passenger who chats relentlessly and the inattentive parent who lets their toddler run riot.
An aisle seat neighbour destroys your work attire by sloshing half of their apple juice onto a freshly pressed dress shirt, someone’s child doesn’t stop kicking the back of a seat, and an audio-insensitive neighbour laughs louder than the plane’s engines at scenes from their favourite comedy show.
So next time you plan to power through your work mid-flight, think again and instead take the opportunity to watch bad movies, read a magazine or even befriend a stranger.
Go with the flow instead of trying to replicate your private work space in the sky. It might just make you more relaxed and feel rested when you arrive at your final destination – and more productive in the days that follow.
But if you really need to work, take the advice of a seasoned but slightly annoyed flight attendant who recently told a complaining business traveller: “What don’t you understand about economy? That’s why business class is called business class.”
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