The Secret Marketer on corporate transatlantic travel

Our ’man on the inside’ provides a view from the top of the marketing tree

I’ve just got back to Heathrow on the red eye. I remember all those years ago the first time I flew business class. I was like a child in a sweet shop, left star-struck by everything from the price of my ticket to all the on-board toys.

Back in those days, I was a brand manager in business and boy did I have fun. The fancy lounge, the glass of champagne on boarding, the endless buttons on that flatbed seat, the non-stop movies, the laptop power plug, gourmet dining, the free-flowing bar and the lovely wash bag.

By the time I had arrived at my destination I was so shattered from the combination of jet lag and playing with all the toys on board that I wasn’t best prepared for the working days ahead.

These days the buttons on the magic seat are so much simpler – even I can operate the flatbed without the embarrassment of having to call over cabin crew to rescue me from funny positions; Molton Brown wash bags have been upgraded to Elemis; the wine list and menu has undoubtedly improved; and online check-in is just a beautiful thing. Beyond that, it is very much business as usual for the Club World crew.

“I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed more than my fair share of Chablis”

These days I have learned the hard way that the best thing to do in business class is to resist all the temptations and just get some good sleep. I have joined the brigade of organised business folk in the military routine of a pre-flight meal in the lounge, the ceremonial donning of flight socks and the corporate competition to see who can fall asleep first once the seat-belt sign is turned off.

I am now so drilled in this routine that I can’t remember the last time I watched a movie on board or enjoyed more than my fair share of Chablis across the Atlantic. I am not sure if this is career progression or fun reduction, but I suspect the two go hand in hand.

But this style of transatlantic travel could be about to change. A mate of mine, who works for a big American corporate, told me that his company’s latest whiz is to tempt employees to fly premium economy rather than business. The employee gets to keep 50% of any saving the company makes on their air fare.

So let me get this right. We are going to pay you to downgrade from business class such that you can arrive at your very important meeting on the other side of the Atlantic in a very poor condition. Perhaps all their brand managers had been having far too much fun in business class.

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