I received an item in the mail recently that I hoped would never arrive. It was a letter from British Airways who were pleased to enclose my new BA Executive Club card. The main problem with this is that the new card is a very different colour from my last one. The old one was a nice shiny silver one. The new card is Sapphire. BA calls it Sapphire, but actually it’s blue. Blue means entry-level, normal and non-exclusive. Blue means no speedy check-in and most concerning, no executive lounge.
I know, I know. As problems go, this is minor. But it really irked me how, having spent a pretty dreadful year building up my BA Club status, the killjoys at the airline go and snatch it away again, when I was just a few flights (and my sanity) away from an upgrade to gold .
I spent about eight months of a previous job doing some fairly hard-core business travel. It’s easy to identify people who don’t travel for business: they still think it’s glamorous. It’s actually pretty tedious. If you are very, very lucky, you travel shorthall and get to spend some time in foreign places, enjoying the people, the food and the sights, with a bit of work in between. If you’re not so lucky (and most aren’t), travelling for business is an exhausting, inconvenient and lonely experience. I’m convinced that the people who say they enjoy travelling for business just have miserable home lives.
My ‘top’ memories from a year of mental travel include:
- Arriving in an airless hotel room (heated to 30 degrees for some reason) after 9 hours flying followed by 14 hours in meetings. Going to the mini bar to get a bottle of water and finding that it stocked only whiskey, cigarettes and condoms
- Cutting into an orange at a hotel breakfast to see a fruit-fly fly out of it. Stomach churning.
- Only getting seven hours sleep over three days because work was so crazy – I thought I might actually die
- The lovely BA airhostess who brought me hot water with lemon and gave me a mum-hug when I cried in the night on the way back from the States because I was delirious with jetlag and tiredness
- Missing the only direct flight home after a week away because my boss had overslept and not thought to pack the night before. You’re not allowed to shout at your boss so I had to stay quiet, but usually, I am very intolerant of such slap-dash approaches to international travel
- A scorpion running over my foot
I told you I worked hard for those air miles.
I did learn a lot during my year of business travelling mayhem. I learnt to be quite resilient, very organised and how to pack light – company policy was to travel with hand luggage only, even for a whole week away. I learnt a smattering of Portuguese, to never trust IT bods who promise the laptop internet connection will “definitely work” in the US, and how to bite my tongue (see point five above).
Most importantly, I stacked up enough air miles to be awarded with my heightened BA status. Sadly, the card expires after 12 months if you don’t keep living at an unrealistic pace. Whilst I won’t miss the travelling, I will miss the card and the perks it brought. If you spend half your time in the airport, a peaceful executive lounge away from tourists, school groups and screaming babies is not to be sniffed at. Club members can also take advantage of speedy check-in and separate lines at security, so that you don’t have to be delayed by the frustrating idiots who somehow don’t know that you can’t travel with liquids over 100ml.
But those pros just make travelling tedium a little more tolerable. They don’t make it nice. A BA flat bed is alright, but I’d still rather be in my own bed. The food is better than in cattle-class, but I’d rather go out for a meal with friends. The air hostess mum-hug was lovely, but I’d rather have actually been with my mum.
BA’s letter reminded me that to regain my status, I needed several hundred tier points or something like 60 flights, to be taken within the next six months.
I’m pretty sure it’s not worth it. Easyjet here I come.