Richard Quest: When things go wrong, it's every flyer for himself

 

Last week my plan to make a quick day trip from Atlanta (where I am at the moment) to New York was rudely interrupted by the arrival of Superstorm Sandy. The closure of New York's three airports also broke the air bridge between London and New York (there are usually up to 25 daily flights between the two cities) and destroyed thousands of travel arrangements.

I realise that my problems pale into utter insignificance alongside the $20bn of damage the storm is said to have caused across the eastern seaboard, its destructive path ending lives and ruining livelihoods in the process. In my case it was simply a case of abandoning the journey and rescheduling for the future. But it set me thinking.

Is it any different when you have paid thousands of pounds to fly in premium cabins? Does the precious business class code J on your ticket help you when things go wrong? The short answer is, not really. When things go wrong it hits everyone and the ability to get ahead of the rest depends not on what you have paid but on the status you hold. BA or Virgin are not going to be able to magic up a seat to New York if planes are not flying. Nor will they necessarily put you at the front of the queue for when the planes take off again, just because you are in business class.

Of course, business class passengers will have a more comfortable time in airport lounges while backpackers squat in the airport terminal. But it is only the very frequent flyers – the gold cards and above – that get extra-special attention. Simply sidling up to a gate agent and saying "I am in business class" will get you a quick reply: "So are all these other people." The golds and above are those that get that individual attention.

Even when it comes to changing your own travel plans, business class does not mean an automatic "yes". I often buy discounted business class tickets which come with all the restrictions of an economy seat (except when it comes to legroom). So when things go wrong, I too am stuck, waiting along with everyone else.

What I have discovered is that when things go wrong you are on your own. It is the person who calls to rebook first, who gets to the service counter ahead of everyone else and who has a good idea of what their options are who ultimately gets to their destination. I was once flying from Chicago to Hong Kong when the plane "went tech". I quickly got on my mobile phone, called the airline and rebooked myself while waiting in line for the service desk. I took care of myself.

The moment I get wind of a delay, I don't repair to the bar. I start thinking about alternatives and options: finding out about other flights, overnight stays, different routings. If it is my journey home then I immediately think about extending my hotel, car hire – everything that will eventually have to be sorted out.

The point is: none of this is because I was in business class. When it comes to getting where you need to be, every other passenger is your enemy fighting for seats.

Richard Quest is CNN's international business correspondent and presents 'Quest Means Business'. Follow him on Twitter @richardquest

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
musicOfficial chart could be moved to accommodate Friday international release day
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
News
i100
Sport
Italy celebrate scoring their second try
six nations
Sport
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against West Ham
footballWest Ham 1 Crystal Palace 3
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - OTE £36,000

    £12500 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Knaresborough ...

    Beverley James: Accounts Payable

    £23,000: Beverley James: Do you have a background in hospitality and are you l...

    Recruitment Genius: Cleaning Manager - York and Bradford

    £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The post holder is a key member of the V...

    Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Drivers

    £18000 - £28800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Driv...

    Day In a Page

    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower