Event Management, Air Travel & The Delegate. C&IT Blog July 2013

Growing Event Management and Venue Finding Agency
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As a growing Event Management and Venue Finding Agency, we are finding ourselves more often than not at Birmingham Airport as we depart to operate and manage our events. Occasionally we may be lucky enough to venture down the M40 to London Heathrow if we are going somewhere a little more exotic than Glasgow. I have always loved travelling, but as I travel more in this new world of airline cost cuts, I shudder at the mere thought of boarding a short haul flight and treat long haul with a sense of trepidation (if turning right at the door, which is always the case).

As we strive to keep our supplier costs to a minimum, one area that continues to increase almost daily is air travel. And with these increased costs, one would hope that service would improve. Alas, it seems this model isn’t applicable in the aviation world, where increased prices often reflect lower service standard.

To deliver extraordinary event management solutions, we are at the mercy of airlines in getting our delegates comfortably to where our events are taking place. Although we can control almost every detail of the event management and delegate experience, the airport and flight is something we have little influence over. And this can influence the overall delegate experience greatly.

I remember the good old days of air travel. Even 15 years ago, when I started in the events industry, flying was an exciting experience! As a child, the meal on our Dan Air package holiday flight to Spain was a highlight and check in staff never flinched when my family rocked up at Gatwick with bags and bags of luggage, food shopping and inflatable dingy’s…… No flight was complete without a trip to the cockpit and flying was just so much more civilised. It is these experiences that made me passionate about all things travel. I remember we always used to moan about the perils of Dan Air which when compared to today’s standards, was actually rather good.

As a write this blog, I am currently flying at 35,000 feet somewhere over Spain sitting in a ridiculously cramped and small seat. And, I have mastered how to open my laptop and type without elbowing the lady next to me. I am being bombarded by cabin crew selling their wares from overcooked bacon butties to duty free and scratch cards. And no, I’m not flying low cost, rather a well known UK charter airline. How times have changed! No more chicken or beef dinner, for me!

I think we sometimes forget how the flying experience for delegates can really effect the overall event experience and airlines seldom focus on the overall passenger experience, rather how to peddle their wares and extract every last penny from you, which starts at the airport. Can an airport really justify charging £1 for a see through plastic bag for toiletries?

Some airlines do get it right. One UK airline (who’s cabin crew wear red shoes), offer a group product that is truly innovative and perfectly targeted to Event Management and Venue Finding companies. Our most recent experience with a UK bound group was nothing more than a pleasure from start to finish. And a certain UK airline (who’s cabin crew wear blue shoes), is stepping up as new super double decker planes take to the skies, which makes their long haul product a really strong contender for our long haul groups.

But, for us mere mortals who rely on the Glasgow shuttle, flying still tends to be stressful, expensive and a disappointing experience. How can I justify charging my client £350.00 for a 400 mile round trip and still have to pay £6.00 coffee and a glass of water? I have just read in CNN Business Traveller that Ryanair has posted ancillary revenues at Euro 1 Billion. How is that even possible? Well, we all know how its possible but, this business model is alien to me as an event management agency. As we strive to keep our event management costs as low as possible, it seems that airlines are the last frontier in both negation and value for money, where charging £4.00 for a weak black coffee is acceptable.

It is these experiences that may hinder the event management industry, as we struggle to afford the extortionate costs, poor quality and terrible value that sadly many airlines offer.

As for my current charter flight, its still not good, we are currently being ambushed by the duty free cart and a flight attendant peddling chunky chips…..