As all travel managers are only too aware, successful outcomes are the result of careful and considered planning
Some questions have no answer. Why, for example, do Italians bother to have zebra crossings? Why (as any parent of one will attest) do British males under 25 believe spraying half a can of Lynx into each armpit will attract the opposite sex?
But, above all, why are we suddenly being plagued with an epidemic of the prefix “pre-“? I am constantly hearing this tautology on TV and radio in phrases such as “pre-prepared statement” or, a favourite of our nation’s police officers, “pre-planned operation”.
Using “pre-“ like this actually distorts meaning. Surely the operation wasn’t pre-planned but planned? Or are the rozzers telling me they went ahead and raided that crack den before they actually figured out how they were going to do it?
Yet, thinking this through, perhaps the nation has stumbled on a very useful new word, because there’s overwhelming evidence of a lot of “pre-planning” right now: rushing into action before considering your strategy. Exhibit A for this argument is, naturally, Brexit. With, at time of writing, every chance we will tumble out of the EU with no deal, the premature triggering of Article 50 in 2017 before developing any detailed vision for how we might depart looks even greater folly now than it did then.
Planning also went through my mind when reading about the disappearance of the footballer Emiliano Sala. Many people who work in managed travel must immediately have asked themselves the same question: what was someone travelling for work, as Sala was, doing flying from France to Wales in that kind of aircraft?
Without going into the exact details of who booked what, or how Sala ended up in a single-engined, light aircraft flown by a boiler engineer and part-time pilot, there are lessons to be learned here for travel managers. This tragic story is a reminder that duty-of-care towards travelling employees includes due diligence: ensuring there is adequate licensing, vetting and risk and liability assessment to cover each occasion they board an aircraft, enter a car or clamber into a bed for the night.
Some of the intermediaries providing all the above have changed in recent years. For example, there are now flight-sharing platforms that connect passengers with private pilots. It’s legal so long as the pilot does not charge the passenger more than a pro rata share of the direct costs of the flight.
But whether for flying or anything else, and however popular they may be with travellers themselves, travel managers must ensure use of any intermediary is consistent with their duty-of-care and doesn’t leave them legally exposed.
In the case of Sala, the agent told the Daily Mail: “When you spend €17 million on a footballer, you don’t put him on an easyJet flight.” Ironically, if Sala had flown in an easyJet aircraft, he would still be alive and perhaps banging in the goals for Cardiff City today.
Meanwhile, there was an impressive early bid for most incompetent travel professional of the year at January’s Business Travel Awards in London. One reveller caused much mirth around midnight as he suddenly realised he had travelled up to London without any record, or recollection, of which hotel he had booked. I’d think it funny, too, if it weren’t for the fact that the individual in question was me.