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Four Awkward Business Travel Moments Road Warriors will Recognise

Have you ever presented at a high-level conference in flip flops and a colourful Hawaii shirt because the airline misplaced your luggage? Or have you spent the night on a park bench because the hotel was overbooked?

Road warriors spend nearly four weeks of their personal time on a plane and an average of 88 nights away from home per year. During all this time away, awkward moments are bound to happen.

Oz Desai, General Manager Corporate Traveller, shares light on some of the most awkward and cringe-worthy business travel moments every single road warrior will undoubtedly recognise.

Travelling with your boss

Picturing sultry evenings on the beach with a cocktail in your hand, your next business trip to Mauritius seems like a perfect getaway from the office… until your boss announces he will be joining you.

Ananya, a participant in the 2017 Corporate Traveller Road Warrior campaign, found herself sitting beside her boss on a flight from Durban to Cape Town. She says: “I got up while he was sleeping, went to the restroom and stopped and asked the flight attendant for a tomato juice. She handed me a can, I went back to my seat, popped the top, and it sprayed all over my boss’s khaki suit pants! He remained asleep until we prepared to land and when he woke up, he freaked out! To this day, I deny any knowledge of what happened!”

“Business trips with the boss can be a recipe for disaster,” agrees Desai. “But, they can also give you the opportunity to show your worth and make a good impression, so, make the most of the opportunity. Use this time to collaborate and get to know more about them, at the end of the day, bosses are human.”

If you’re unsure on whether to take a professional or a personal approach, follow your boss’s actions. If he talks work, engage in it. If he shows signs he’d like to relax, feel free to watch a movie or doze off.

Table for one, please!

One of the most awkward and intimidating moments for novice business travellers is eating by themselves in a restaurant. However, road warriors will tell you that it’s not a good idea to order room service every night and stay in your own bubble.

Remember as well that there are worse things than eating by yourself. You could find yourself forced to eat local ‘delicacies’ to please your hosts.

Kagiso, Corporate Traveller Road Warrior participant, explains he’s eaten palm grubs, mice and grasshoppers around the world. He drew the line however when he was offered goat cooked by a man who wiped his sweaty brow and then flipped the meat with his hands.

Packing disasters

Packing for a business trip can be a major pain point for travellers: under-packing, over-packing or plainly packing the wrong items are all real concerns.

Rule of thumb: if your outfit description contains the words ‘sweatsuit’, ‘velvet’ or ‘Hawaiian’, you should really reconsider what you’re wearing. If you’re sharing a room with a co-worker or colleague, remember to pack respectable sleepwear. 

Charlotte, a 2017 Corporate Traveller Road Warrior participant, had the trip from hell when the airline lost her luggage. What’s more, is that she had an allergic reaction to the seafood she had eaten and also contracted an ear infection. “Imagine me trying to do a business deal with spots all over and cotton wool in my ears wearing the only tired-looking clothes  I had?”

Try and fit all the essentials you need in a carry-on suitcase, advises Desai. You will not only save time and effort, but you also won’t run the risk of your luggage getting lost somewhere along the way.

Airport Security Mishaps

Getting swabbed for explosives, removing shoes and belts and setting off the dreaded security alarms, airport security is seen as a necessary evil by most road warriors. In fact, passing through security is seen as one of the top five concerns for business travellers according to Statista.

2017 Corporate Traveller Road Warrior winner Mike Drummond recounts how he flew to Harare on business. Following a sugar scare, Drummond had lost a considerable amount of weight and his fancy suit had become slightly too big. When arriving at security, he was asked to remove his shoes and belt.

“To this day, I still do not know what made this shoeless, beltless, most innocent-looking man set off THAT alarm,” he recalls. “Yes, the dreaded ‘pat-down’. A full airport, queues of people and I was asked to put my hands in the air. So there I was in the middle of Harare airport with no shoes, no belt and pants around my ankles. Looking very good from the waist up but not very kosher from the waist down. I was very quickly told to collect my belongings, get dressed and board my plane, which I did and received a very warm round of applause from a few of my fellow passengers.”

Most road warriors will tell you that travelling for business can result in some very strange moments that make for great stories to tell back at the office.

In 2020, Corporate Traveller once again wants to hear your stories as seasoned road warriors, as first-time business travellers or as occasional corporates. Whether your experience is entertaining, hair-raising or embarrassing, share your story with Corporate Traveller on and you could WIN a R20 000 travel voucher!

The best stories will be featured on Jacaranda FM each week – and go into the grand prize draw. The competition closes on 17 March 2020, so submit your story today! 

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