Bringing About the New Golden Age of Social Aviation

"The captain has turned off the 'fasten seatbelt' sign. You may now move around the cabin."

How many times in your life have you heard that message? It is not quite the invitation to move about, stretch your legs and network with your fellow passengers that it once was. It is common to see images from the Golden Age of Travel (1950s and 60s) in which passengers are networking over drinks or cheerfully talking over a lavish dinner. But times have changed and so has the reality of travel. Now it is more common to read tweets about overcrowded planes, lost time on the tarmac, terrible client service, etc. Most modern communication about flying is negative -- and therefore most people view that trip to 30,000 feet as an essential nuisance.

Flying for pleasure or with your family has its own set of challenges, but at least the end destination is something enjoyable. Business travel, on the other hand, is necessary for job advancement and the success of your company. Quite a few business travelers complain of feeling like cattle being prodded through the airport and onto the flight instead of individuals who paid good money for a seat on the plane.

It would be great if flying was like the image above; planes filled with happy people, talking and enjoying each other's company and the flight, and flight attendants and customers respecting each other. Unfortunately, travel is not like that in 2016. So what makes flying -- especially for business -- so painful?

Top 5 Reasons Business Travel is Frustrating:

  1. Unproductive Work Environment - When flying for business, it is natural to want to make the most of the downtime of travel. Send out emails, finish up a presentation or catch up on some needed work. In an ideal situation, we'd be able to network prior to the big conference. However, the airport is filled with people hustling to planes, screaming kids, limited seating and very few electronic outlets, making it a less than ideal place to set up an office. The few airports that offer WiFi are often running at capacity, thanks to the teens streaming from YouTube. Private airline clubs catering to business travelers are great, but oftentimes are located nowhere near your gate. Then once on the plane space is tight, internet is is yet another cost and the environment is not great for concentrating.

  • Lack of Good and Healthy Food Options - Airport food might be fine for those travelers on vacation who can afford to splurge. But seasoned flyers understand that the greasy burgers and fries are not helping frequent travelers' waistlines. The food found in airports and airlines is rarely fresh and is filled with salt and sugar that is hard on your body. Over the years, the bad food and lack of exercise that naturally goes hand-in-hand with business trips puts frequent travelers at a higher risk for obesity.
  • Chronic Business Travelers Age Faster and Have a Weaker Immune System - Recirculating air in planes exposes travelers to germs. Couple that with the stress and fatigue that tends to accompany business travel, and the result is a weaker immune system over time. The stress starts to wreak havoc on the body, which can make people age faster. We all know business travel can be a pain, but who knew it could potentially shorten your life?
  • Long Wait Times - It is hard to predict how long security lines will be, especially at the busiest airport hubs. Chicago O'Hare and Midway Airport have recently been in the news because of their long TSA lines. They have started encouraging travelers to arrive to airport three hours before their flight. When time is money, that's quite a sacrifice to make.
  • Flight Delays - Flight delays are an unexpected frustration and can throw a curveball in any trip, but are especially frustrating when trying to be on time for a business meeting. In the month of April alone 9,000 domestic flights were canceled and 139,000 were delayed. Luckily, winter storms will not be an issue for at least half the year, but spring thunderstorms can still cause their fair share of delays.
  • Unfortunately, the average passenger can't solve these frustrations on her own. The trick is to find a way to make the most of travel. Luckily, companies like Flyght Club are working to bring back the social experience of flying. This app, which taps into "social aviation," helps connect passengers by allowing them to network with fellow travelers before, during and after the flight. Passengers are able to make connections on their own terms and take full advantage of the time that they spend on an airplane or waiting to board. Thanks to social aviation, the Golden Age of Travel in the 21st century is right around the corner.

    This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.