One of the questions raised with Ausdroid on Twitter, and in comments on the past “Behind the tech” story we wrote was about business class travel for international trips.
Whenever Ausdroid travels, someone pays for it. Sometimes we’ll pay out of our own revenue, sometimes we’ll receive sponsorship money to pay for travel, or sometimes the travel will be organised by someone else and we just go along.
Within Australia, that travel occurs by a number of means. We might drive somewhere, we might take an interstate bus (as Dan often did when coming to Sydney), or we may fly. Almost always, though, domestic flights will be economy class because they’re so short, and business class flights would be expensive and wasteful.
When we’re travelling internationally, though, we – and most other journalists on the technology beat, at least – prefer to fly business class.
It’s expensive, it’s comfortable, and – to many people – business class travel is opulent. At over $10,000 to fly to Europe in business class, it’s not a minor expense, and many would see it as part of an attempt by brands sponsoring Ausdroid to buy favour .. that’s part of the reason for this story, to set the record straight.
We don’t fly business all the time
Some journalists will refuse to fly internationally if business class travel isn’t offered. We don’t.
Generally speaking, when a brand is hosting Ausdroid, only one of us will attend, and depending on the international destination, it’s common for business class (or sometimes premium economy) to be offered. Australia is rather a long way away from most international destinations, and if you’re spending 23 hours in a seat, anyone would prefer that seat to be more comfortable than not.
However, some destinations are close. For example, I flew to an event in Indonesia a couple of years back, and that was an economy class flight. However, being only a few hours away, this really wasn’t an issue. Equally, to fly to NZ is only 3 hours, and easily doable in an economy seat. By the time you take off, eat an in-flight meal and watch a movie, you’re already about to land.
Equally, where brands provide sponsorship money to Ausdroid, we will often try to make that money stretch as far as it can.
Using MWC 2019 as an example, for the price of a return business class flight, we could fly three to four extra people to attend in economy. And so we did. With Computex a couple of months ago, we had enough sponsorship money for a return business class flight, but instead opted for two return flights so Duncan and I could both attend.
When we fly business, we work
We are acutely aware of the price of international travel, and when someone offers to spend their money to fly us in business class to an international event, we make sure that Ausdroid – and the sponsoring company – get value for money.
When you tell most people that you flew in business class to Europe, they assume the flights involve copious amounts of alcohol, fancy food, a comfortable lay-flat bed to sleep in and more.
There’s a bit more to it.
Ahead of a major trade show, there’s a lot of information to get across, and there’s a lot to coordinate. Flying to MWC earlier this year, I spent much of the flight from Sydney to Doha reading briefing materials, embargoed press releases and typing up notes for use during the show. Reading executive interviews and profiles, studying upcoming product announcements, and staying in touch with PR companies and marketing executives to lock in final schedules. In fact, I didn’t sleep once on that flight and spent almost the whole trip working. I stopped – briefly – for a quick meal and a glass of wine, and then kept going.
Equally, when we hit the ground, we’re broadly expected to be ready to go. There’s rarely time for a day of doing nothing to catch up on rest (and when dealing with jetlag the worst thing to do is head to bed early). On arrival in Doha, Duncan Phil and I had a bit of a chat around coffee about a few developments that had occurred while in flight, and made our way to the next flight. No lounges, no beers, no fancy food. Just work. On that next flight from Doha to Spain, that’s when I (and the guys) slept.
Generally speaking, if you’re in an economy seat, getting work done isn’t easy. For starters, there’s limited room to even get a laptop out, much less use one while reading printed material. Anyone who’s tried will be familiar with the grunts of disapproval from your neighbours who don’t like being elbowed while you type. Equally, if you’re expected – as we often are – to hit the ground running, a brand is going to want us (somewhat) well rested so that we can do that.
After a 24 hour flight in economy – many of us have done this now – we can all attest: you simply can’t work. Function? Perhaps yes, barely, but I wouldn’t want to read anything I’d written after 24 hours of no sleep, minimal food and excessive physical discomfort. It would be garbage.
It’s not just us, either
Many of those who travel with us to these events have their own reasons for preferring business class travel, and let me tell you that the wine, food and “opulent” activities most associate with the travel aren’t amongst them.
A well known Sydney-based video journalist uses his time on international travel to edit and prepare video packages for his website and for television customers. Others use the time in the air to edit podcasts, write reviews and cover the news, and other activities. Very few sit back, drink, eat all the food on offer and party it up. For most, international travel occurs “on the clock” and just as you wouldn’t spend a work day drinking, eating and being merry, neither do we when our workplace happens to be in the sky.
Business class travel is a luxury, and it is a privilege. There’s no doubt in my mind about that.
Because of those facts, I know I speak for our entire team when I say that we use this privilege and luxury for maximum benefit. We use the time to prepare better quality coverage for you – our readers – and to make ourselves better informed for the activities we’ll be reporting on when we arrive.
An international trip for Ausdroid is far from a holiday. There might be time for a few hours of recreation between commitments, but ask anyone who travels internationally for work whether its a luxurious holiday, and they’ll be sure to laugh at you.
What else would you like to see Behind the Tech? Let us know in the comments and we can work on another yarn for you.