Schedules are the bread and butter of business trips. Well, any activity actually, but getting to and fro is potentially more important for business trips because time is of the essence. Time is literally gold in this sense, and you lose money for every second you waste.
Thankfully we have globalization at our side. Apart from the internet, we now utilize the speed of different transportation technologies to move places.
Or maybe not.
Is speed still a huge factor for business trips? More specifically, does achieving more speed than we are currently capable of now make business travel any more efficient?
Let's take a page from the past first, and analyze what one particular technology was able to prove.
The flaw of going faster
It was the 21st of January, in the year 1976. The first commercial flight of the very first supersonic aircraft took place. It was none other than the Concorde, the famed superjet that can take anyone across the Atlantic in just a little more than three hours.
On paper, the introduction of this technological marvel was supposed to be a boon for business people. After all, jumping from one part of the world to another in such phenomenal pace could mean being able to do many things. That is, without having to worry about the rest of the day being wasted on travel time.
As such, it was introduced to people who could afford higher class flights. At the time, a one way ticket from London to New York costed more than £4,000 (£32,000, or $41,500), so it was indeed only reserved for the higher elite. This was mainly to keep up with the Concorde’s exorbitant maintenance costs.
But as the years went by, the demand for the supersonic aircraft did not increase. Middle class folk would not purchase the tickets regularly. But even the richer people also did not seem to care about its astonishing flight speed. The Concorde was eventually retired by the early 21st century, the last flight taking place on the 24 October 2003.
Concorde did not fail simply because it was too expensive to maintain. It failed because there also wasn’t just any stable market for the 'pay-high-fly-fast' niche. The fundamental logical flaw of going faster is that extended travel time is not actually a 'waste of time'.
For instance, the simplest possible way to maintain productivity during six to eight hours on a regular long-haul flight is to simply schedule your sleep along with it. Finding the right flight schedule for this is no longer a hassle anyway, given the flight search tools at our disposal. As an added bonus, depending on where you will go, you can even reduce jet lag with such a strategy.
Speed, as we have seen, is not everything when it comes to efficiency.
A 'worth' while trip
On the digital information front, things have been developing at a direction where scheduling your sleep might no longer be the simplest way to make things more productive.
One project by private aerospace company SpaceX, named Starlink, would eventually make the internet available on the planet anywhere, anytime. Instead of traditionally relying on ground base stations, commercial aircraft will be able to use the 24-hour connectivity of Starlink’s orbiting satellite fleet.
This may or may not encourage more airline companies to allow in-flight WiFi, but it will certainly boost the efficiency of those who already provide such services. Keep in mind though, that laptops and other similar devices are only allowed for use on certain parts of the flight. So, you may still have a bit of idle downtime in-between flights that could mitigate your capability to do mobile work.
Now let's get back on the ground to consider the (supposed) eventual proliferation of 'self-driving cars'. We’ve discussed how automated vehicles could change the face of work as a whole, and they deserve a special mention in their efficiency to make speed less of a priority in productive traveling.
Something, but not everything
Because of the lessons learned from Concorde during its few decades of service, any type of upcoming 'revolutionary' high-speed transportation technology today - and in the near future - should always be taken with adequate skepticism.
Perhaps the most blatant example is the Hyperloop, most easily introduced as the “maglev in a vacuum tube” tech. It pretty much makes the exact same promises as Concorde. It is touted as the train of the future that can accelerate to speeds even faster than commercial jetliners.
Even if we disregard its current technological challenges, the fact remains that there is no strategically vital need for the average American to travel from coast to coast at such speeds. Occasionally there might be certain important reasons to zoom around the continent, but more often than not there isn't.
Being that it is conceptually more complex, it is also easy to see how prices for it could be much more exorbitant. Of course, its implementation, as well as the scope of its infrastructure could change a lot of things. But as of now, that is the only visible prediction.
There is another technology that seems to provide an even more outrageous speed boost, this time on a slightly more convincing tune. The BFR Earth-to-Earth transport system was announced a few years ago by the private aerospace company SpaceX. It features a second stage rocket booster that is capable of launching passengers from one point of the Earth and land on another.
Because passengers are basically shot like an ICBM, the travel time is even shorter than the Concorde, and your destination could practically be anywhere. But the key difference is cost. Technical details and other specifics aside, SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell specifically explained that the BFR Earth-to-Earth system would be eventually available at the cost of an economy plane ticket.
In conclusion, business trips today are no longer affected significantly by technological enhancements in speed. At least not as they once were, when modern modes of transportation, such as cars and planes, were first introduced.
In fact, making the trip worthwhile is the more efficient option, not just economically, but also practically... at least until we get finally those sweet economy rocket launch tickets.
Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash.