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BUSINESS TRAVELER

Tips for Traveling Businessmen and Businesswomen

Aired October 17, 2003 - 08:30:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN ANCHOR: You get to see the world. You experience things of which most people only dream. You stay in the best hotels, eat in the finest restaurants, and all at your company's expense. So this month, from New York, the perks and privileges of the business traveler.
Hello and welcome to CNN BUSINESS TRAVELLER. I'm Richard Quest, this month in New York, and that in itself tells you our story.

This month, I'm in the Big Apple. Last month, it was Hong Kong, and earlier this year, Johannesburg and Dubai. It's one of the greatest privileges of the traveling executive, the opportunity to see the world at someone else's expenses.

So in today's program, the perks and how to get the most from your life on the road.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

QUEST (voice-over): All expenses paid. What can you expect your company to cough up for? And how far can you push it?

The man who knows all about traveling in style, Bill Fischer fixes holidays for the rich and famous. We go on the road with him to Monte Carlo.

And the perk that is to be no more. The aspiration for all travelers, a trip on Concorde. We fly supersonic across the Atlantic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OK. Let's get down to business, and the most important symbol of the frequent traveler: the Gold Card. More than anything else, these set you aside as being among the most frequent flyers in the world. Given out by airlines and hotels, they give you status, upgrades and, of course, air miles. And if you're as obsessed about collecting miles as I am, you'll be doing it morning, noon and night.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

QUEST (voice-over): When it comes to collecting air miles, there are frequent flyer fanatics, and then there's Steve Belkin. He's in a league of his own.

STEVE BELKIN, FREQUENT FLYER: I have 4.4 million miles with the KLM Flying Dutchman program. I have north of 200,000 with United, although at one time I had close to 10 million.

QUEST: For Steve, collecting air miles is a way of life. For every trip, he carefully weighs the pros and cons of how to earn the most, even if that means traveling the wrong way around the world.

BELKIN: There's no question that I have done certain travel itineraries with the intent of getting miles and then decided to create a vacation as a result of it. So sometimes the cart does come before the horse.

QUEST: More than 100 million of us have enrolled in at least one frequent flyer program, and even if we've no hope of getting to Steve's level, we still try to get some of the benefits from earning miles. Free travel, lounge access or, for instance, lots of upgrades.

With so many benefits on offer, it's tempting to join every airline program in sight. A big mistake says expert Randy Peterson. First, you must decide what you want from your frequent flyer program.

RANDY PETERSON "INSIDE FLYER": The mistake that everyone makes is they don't do their research and figure out what benefits they want from the airline first. Some airlines are more generous with upgrades. Other people out there, free travel is real, real important.

QUEST: Having set your goal, next choose your airline. These days, that's most likely to be one of the big three alliances: Star, One World or Sky Team. It's his personal choice, but Randy's in no doubt which he believes is the best.

PETERSON: Star Alliance is definitely No. 1. The amount of money they put in to make seamless frequent flyer program benefits, lounge access, a singular type of a rewards system across the way, and a network of airlines. They've got a very, very solid network of airlines.

QUEST: So, some simple rules for getting the most miles.

First: be ruthless in staying with one airline alliance. It's the only way you'll ever reach gold status.

Second: if you really can't travel with your first choice, have a second airline in reserve. Eventually, you'll also have earned decent mileage there as well.

And, of course, don't forget the literally thousands of other ways you can collect miles. Hotels, car rentals, telephone calling cards, even the weekly shopping.

If all this seems a bit obsessive, just remember, we're talking about status and free travel here. So start treating miles with respect. Play this one right, and it's a way to get something approaching a free lunch.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

Air miles is almost guaranteed to be a topic of conversation between business travelers over dinner, for example somewhere like Tavern on the Green, but also hot on the menu will be that perennial, expenses. Just how much can you claim for a business trip? What can you get away with? And perhaps more importantly, what will the company not allow?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHELLEY VESTA (ph), BUSINESS TRAVELER: The thing about fashion and the way the fashion industry is, you do need to have a certain kind of standard of where you stay. I don't exploit it, and we don't always eat in the best restaurants, but if you're entertaining, certainly, then you do push the boat out a little.

MATTHEW PRICE, AMERICAN EXPRESS: I think there's a growing realization amongst corporates as well as the individual travelers that it makes sense not to be over-exuberant on your expenditure, because you may wind up having to lay 10 people off if you don't control your costs, and travel is something you can control and the traveler is now very much aware of that.

CLIVE FATHERS, ACCOUNTANT: It's probably not accurate to say that all the employees are out to get every penny they can out of the company, but certainly what one individual sees to be a reasonable expenditure wouldn't be for another person. So I think that's why it's very important for companies to have clear expense policies setting out what they are prepared to reimburse, to avoid that distrust building up.

VESTA (ph): I think it's a real balance, because the traveling can be really tiring. I mean, I'm expected to get off a plane and come in to work, but at the same time, you don't leave behind the fact that you've just been to a destination that most people dream to go to.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

QUEST: The naughty issue of expenses, and I'm absolutely certain you've got views about that. What you haven't been able to claim and perhaps some of your more imaginative expenses reports. What did you get away with? Let me know. It's the usual e-mail address, Quest@cnn.com.

And you can find a whole rack of interesting articles about business travel at our Web site, CNN.com/businesstraveller.

Now, coming up after the break, you've made it into business class on the plane. Will you get a good night's sleep?

QUEST: We test out the beds that will help you get 40 winks when you're 40,000 feet in the air.

CNN BUSINESS TRAVELLER, back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

QUEST: Welcome back to New York, the city that never sleeps. And if you're on your way over here, you'll want to make sure you get a good night's rest before you arrive.

The airlines these days are doing their bit to help you do that by installing all sorts of new ways that you can get some shuteye. For instance, we have flat beds, space beds, wide beds, soft beds. They're all at it, and we've been road testing some of the latest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

QUEST (voice-over): The new Virgin product, a luxury flat bed in upper class and Cathay Pacific's new business class seat. These are just two examples of airlines saying it's the chair that matters.

We asked sleep expert Neil Stanley to put them to the test.

NEIL STANLEY, SLEEP EXPERT: It's a comfortable seat and an excellent bed, even long enough for somebody like me to be able to get a good night's sleep on. There's room to move. It doesn't feel cramped or oppressive, and it just is a very, very good solution to the problem of getting a good night's sleep on an aircraft.

The one criticism, if there is one, is that it's one thing or another, i.e. it's a very comfy seat and it's a very comfy bed, but you can't get the transition between the two.

QUEST (voice-over): Virgin has spent $83 million on innovating a new flat bed. Cathay Pacific believe it's still worth investing in the traditional recliner, introducing ergonomic seating in business class.

STANLEY: With the footrest fully extended, my feet are really cramped, so I need to put that down in order to be able to get comfortable, but then once their down, without that great a loss of comfort, you could sit here very comfortably and while away the hours on the flight.

As a chair for passing away a daytime flight in the upright and reclined position, it's a very comfortable chair, and then when you go fully reclined and you wish to have a good night's sleep, it again does that job very well.

QUEST: So, some tips that can help, whatever the incline of your seat.

STANLEY: When on a flight, to get a good night's sleep, get comfortable, loosen your clothing, take your shoes off, make yourself a little nest and just try and get comfortable and ignore the world and get a good night's sleep.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

QUEST: No matter how comfy the bed onboard, you still had to wait for the plane, so the answer: get your own.

This is West Chester County Airport, just outside New York City. It's one of the busiest corporate airports in America. There are a bevy of multi-multimillion dollar jets and what makes it special, of course, is that here the plane waits for you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MEARA ERDOZAIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's your life, when you arrive at the airport just 10 minutes before takeoff, where your plane always lands on time, where a limo meets you at the runway in the pouring rain. The life of the private jet, a mode of travel reserved for the fortunate few: movie stars, pop stars and an increasing number of business executives.

Richard Santini (ph) runs Net Jets. He had the idea of fractional aircraft ownership, where companies or individuals buy a share of a private jet.

RICHARD SANTINI (ph), NET JETS: Basically, the first thing one would decide is how many hours you're going to fly. So in effect, what we do is we take an airplane and we divide it into 800 occupied hours.

Let's say you determine that you're going to be flying approximately 100 hours per year, when 100 over 800, you'd be purchasing 1/8 of an airplane.

ERDOZAIN: Take this Gulf Stream 4 SP. Brand new, it would cost around $30 million. To buy 1/8, the individual pays less than $4 million.

Net Jets argue this is about more than luxury. This is about convenience or time, which they say has no price. The executives who use their planes agree.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course, it's convenient. You can have your own schedule. So it makes it more effective as a business tool. You can be more places in less time, see more of your offices, without having to adhere to a schedule of major airlines.

ERDOZAIN: The question is whether private planes are the future for all business travelers, not just CEOs. Some aviation experts believe the private jet market is just too narrow to become a threat to the commercial airlines.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The private jets, particularly shared ownership, are targeting the top tier executives of large corporations and celebrities who either have very precious time or who have major issues with the privacy of their travel.

For the other travelers, the major bulk of travelers, actually, the shared ownership and the rest of the private jet market is way too expensive.

ERDOZAIN: 75 percent of Net Jets' clients are businesses, companies with their own flight departments, top executives who need to be in several countries in one day. For them, owning a share of a private jet may make financial sense. For the rest of us, it's still considerably cheaper to fly business class.

For CNN BUSINESS TRAVELLER, I'm Meara Erdozain, in the United States.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

QUEST: Now that's what I call traveling in style. We've much more to show you about perks and privileges.

Coming up after the break, he's known as the Madonna of travel agents. We spend the weekend with Bill Fischer. He organizes holidays for those who will blow hundreds of thousands of dollars on a weekend away.

That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

QUEST: A Chai Tea mud mask, lovingly applied by Laura. It's the sort of thing that you enjoy only when you're on the road, a rare privilege. You don't do this sort of thing everyday at home, at least not unless you're the super rich, the sort of people that Bill Fischer deals with. He organizes their holidays, their plastic surgery, everything about their lives.

We went on the road with him and his daughter, Stacey. Now, do you mind.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL FISCHER, FISCHER TRAVEL: We're a personal concierge to our clients. Whatever they want to be done -- they need a butler, they need a chef, they need villas, they need a castle. Whatever they're looking to do, that's what we do. And of course, it's only for the luxury clients on the high end.

90 percent of our people fly privately today, so private jets, private helicopters, to make it as easy and pleasant as possible. You know, for people that can afford it, they just don't want it, they don't want the hassles.

So we started to charge a membership of $5,000. My accountant said you're going to lose all your clients. They're not going to stay with you. They're going to go to other people that aren't going to charge them.

I said, "Don't worry about it."

Five years later, we raised it to $10,000. Five years later, it's $10,000 plus a $5,000 yearly payment.

We're here to look at the newly refurbished Delphine, 246 feet, to see if it meets the standards of our clients. It's a boat that just recently went on the charter market.

246 feet, am I right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 257.8.

FISCHER: Oh, OK. This is 50,000 euros per night, so for a week, you know, 350,000 euros, which is about $400,000.

Making the impossible possible, getting things that no one else can get, you know, to me that's the biggest turn on, and everyday you don't know what people are going to ask you for. You need a plastic surgeon, where someone can get it, you need liposuction, you need a special dermatologist. And to get these appointments with these specialty people, to us, you know, that's a win-win situations.

I mean, we took over a place in Marrakech for a birthday party, that we even washed the camels down with Johnson & Johnson Baby Shampoo and brushed their teeth with Crest toothpaste to make sure that the clients don't have any smelly camels.

Today nothing phases me as far as cost or prices or taking care of people or their demands, and to us, you know, as long as people are nice, they can ask for the moon.

Well, it's something like this, you want to make it right, and it's really not about the cost, it's about the experience.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

QUEST: Now for a corporate jet of a different kind. Not a lot of room, very expensive and very fast. This is Concorde, the stuff of dreams. Just days before its last commercial flight I experienced the ultimate perk, traveling supersonic across the Atlantic.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

QUEST (voice-over): From check in to boarding to takeoff to breaking the speed of sound to landing. From beginning to end, Concorde is an incredible experience.

For those of us stalwart admirers, it's difficult to image this masterpiece of engineering will be no more. Ever since the Air France crash in Paris in 2000, it's been a struggle to fill Concorde's seats, and so we must say goodbye to Concorde, goodbye to supersonic travel across the Atlantic. She traveled 10 miles I the time it takes to pour this glass of champagne. That's more than 1,300 miles an hour, faster than a rifle bullet.

For all of us, including the man whose finally closing the doors, her demise is a great loss.

ROD EDDINGTON, BRITISH AIRWAYS: Concorde is a remarkable airplane, and for those of us who live and work in the industry, it is truly unique, an airplane massively ahead of its time in many ways in terms of what it could do, what it can do, and in a sense is a genuine icon and that's what sets it apart.

I mean, if you look at the list of things people want to do in their lives before they die, Concorde is inevitably and invariably on that list.

QUEST: The profile of those flying Concorde in the past few months has changed. Nowadays, it's Concorde tourists. We're not flying supersonic to get to New York in time for dinner. We just want the experience. We want to get to mach 2, to twice the speed of sound. It's easy to forget that among the champagne popping in the lounge, there are the seasoned flyers, and it's these hardened, more experienced Concorders who will really miss out.

Like the opera singer, Placido Domingo.

PLACIDO DOMINGO, OPERA SINGER: Sometimes it's not only the pleasure of flying Concorde, but the need. Sometimes you need to take the Concorde because, for instance, today, I am continuing to Vienna, and it is convenient for me tomorrow morning to be in rehearsal there rather than spend the night on the plane.

QUEST: And so my flight was one of Concorde's very last. I flew from London to New York. It had all the glamour one associates with supersonic travel. It was fast. It was spectacular. For 3-hours-20-minutes I was treated like royalty.

(on camera): Who could ask for more? The ultimate perk.

And that's it for this edition of CNN BUSINESS TRAVELLER. I'm Richard Quest, above the North Atlantic at mach 2. This is truly the end of an era.

Wherever your travels may take you, it'll certainly be slower, but I hope just as profitable.

I'll see you next month.

END

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