by Dr. Rajiv Narula
Air travel used to be fun, now airports are modern day battlegrounds, with travelers being transformed into 'soldiers', their mission, to make it to their destinations without losing their minds.
There were over 1.4 billion travelers worldwide in 1999, and this number is expected to double in the next decade. Growth like this, would seem to be what the travel industry - airports, airlines, travel
agents, would want. Unfortunately, airports and airlines are having a very difficult time coping with this for several reasons. This was demonstrated over the peak travel season this summer, with the countless canceled, delayed and over booked flights.
For the traveler who is traveling once in a while these inconveniences are usually overlooked and forgotten about as long as they and their baggage eventually make it to their destination. However, for the corporate traveler this is not the case, for them air travel and its problems have made a stressful job even worse.
The typical business traveleris a married male between 36 and 45 years of age, who works for someone else and travels approximately 21 times a year. Time is very precious to them and logistical issues like flight delays, rerouting, canceled flights, etc. can cause major disruptions for them and for their work, which can result in a loss of productivity.
In addition to these issues they are also under business and personal related pressures. They usually depart on a few days' notice, and are usually not well prepared mentally or emotionally. Some medical
issues that are worsened or more like ly to show up due to frequent travel include: deep vein thrombosis, skin, and upperrespiratory infections, jet leg, back problems, dizziness, in-flight radiation and psychological issues.
SEPARATION CAUSES DYSFUNCTION
Separation from family and friends has been shown in studies to be a major issue. Dr. James Morris, of London, did a study on 300 families of oilrig workers, and found that the constant cycle of partings and reunions led to a cluster of symptoms that included depression, anxiety, sexual problems and behavioral problems. This has been given an appropriate name "Intermittent Spouse Syndrome".
Another study was by the World Bank, an International Organization with almost 11,000 employees; out of this number almost 5,000 employees travel regularly. They spend almost a quarter million days
away from home. Findings showed that there were more medical insurance claims from this group of
people than from non- traveling employees. Most problems were usually associated with psychological issues stemming from separation from family and friends.
So clearly we do have a problem which is probably going to get worse. Solutions to these issues are complex and need to be addressed on different levels: by the individual affected, the corporation that sent him/her, the airports, and the airline industry.
On a personal level, the business traveler needs to sit down with his family and come up with a plan on how long they can accept to live like this. Frequent, if not daily phone calls/emails are essential to keep the lines ofcommunication open.
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