Business Travel Show Europe is the place where
September 2022, Virtual
September 29 2022, Virtual
Had any terrorists succeeded in blowing up ten America-bound planes in mid-Atlantic or over US cities, the result does not bear thinking about.
If British security services have foiled such an alleged plot, we have much to thank them for.
Several days of disruption at Heathrow and other UK airports and repercussions on security at airports around the world is a small price to pay for such a delivery.
But the long queues, restrictions on hand baggage and delayed or cancelled flights again, as after 9/11, force us to re-consider the balance between security and the need to go normally about one's business. The latest disruption has made that equation even more difficult to get right.
After 9/11, many people initially did not want to fly. They returned only slowly.
Here the response seems to be less extreme.
A poll by the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) of 152 travel managers taken within 24 hours of the start of the emergency showed that few (3.8%) had experienced a "significant number" of cancellations on flights to Europe by their travellers.
Most (65.4%) had not had many cancellations while 30.8% said they had had some postponements of trips for a week or so.
Equally firmly only 7.7% said they would be limiting future travel to Europe for a time while 61.5% said they would not.
This is in line with feelings in Europe with travel managers in Germany and the Netherlands saying they did not expect the crisis to have much effect on business travel.
Herman Mensink, secretary of CORTAS, a Dutch travel managers' association, said: "We don't see this issue having a major impact on business travel neither short-term nor long-term."
But he added that it would be hard to assess. "We have witnessed a substantial increase in business travel during the last months (excluding holiday period); this increase is likely to continue for the remainder of the year and it is hard - if not impossible - to say that an increase of business travel of 5% is normal or whether it should have been 6% but is now 5% because of the security issues at stake."
But where business travel may pay a price for what has happened is in the restrictions on what baggage can be carried onto planes.
This is where ACTE's polled travel managers had their greatest fears. Right from the start there were misgivings about having to check in laptops, cell phones and blackberries with 23.1% saying they had had complaints and a further 34.6% saying they had had some complaints.
The majority (61.5%) believed that if such rules continued, it would cause people to want to travel less. 38.5% unsure it this would be the case.
Business travellers have got used to being able to carry quite large overnight bags onto planes. This has now stopped, perhaps for good.
While they can currently carry on electronic items, this may change. If it is stopped again, that would be another reason for many travellers to re-consider flying. Add in the long queues and inevitable waits and delays and air travel loses its gloss and becomes an ordeal.
The sharp rise in people switching to Eurostar or using smaller airlines like MAXfly (see stories in In Brief) was a predictable outcome. Private jets are also likely to benefit from the current situation.
But there has to be a measure of security. Who would want to fly on a plane where none of the passengers had been checked and any one could bring anything they wanted on board?
The chaos at Heathrow and resultant bickering between airport authorities and airlines suggests we are no nearer solving this dilemma.
It could prove the toughest of nuts to crack.
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