Why I’m Cheering For Uber

I landed at Heathrow at 10PM and needed a ride to the airport Sheraton on Bath road. My phone was acting up so I wasn’t able to use the Uber app that worked earlier that day in Qatar, and in the preceding days in Abu Dhabi, Brisbane, Los Angeles, and London. So I did what any road-weary traveler would do – I hailed a taxi. As the driver picked up my roll-aboard he looked at me and framed his demand as a question, “You’re paying cash right?”

What? Of course I am – I’ve been held captive by cabbie’s all over the world – and though I have tremendous respect for the most professional among them, the London Cabbies, I know better than to negotiate a credit card payment near midnight in the middle of nowhere (T4 is very quiet that late).

That four-mile drive lasted twenty minutes and cost my employer more than $30.

There are 400 airlines operating scheduled service around the globe, I don’t know how many hotel brands, or travel agencies exist, but ground transportation companies are part of a very fragmented industry. Until now.

I used four airlines to fly from Dallas, to Fiji, Australia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and back to Dallas via London. The Western shore of Nadi, Fiji was the only place I couldn’t find Uber.

I’m not surprised by the polarized reaction discussions about Uber generate among travel managers. It’s hard to grasp how many problems Uber solved for globe-trotters and urban dwellers alike unless you’ve lived through it.

1. I can see where my car on the map in the Uber app before I request one.

2. I know the driver’s name and have his license plate before he arrives.

3. I can watch my journey in real-time on my phone while we travel to my destination – an address that I frequently plug-in before Uber arrives – which eliminates the three-minute discussion about where I’m headed and how to get there after the meter starts.

4. I get out of the car when I arrive at my destination. There’s no transaction or payment to the driver… no more lost cellphones or wallets because they’re safely tucked away before the driver pulled up to the curb. No more searches in his trunk to find those ancient multi-page slider-style receipts and listen to griping about how I needed to pay cash while he acts like it’s been months since anyone gave him a credit card.

5.  No more brake-stompers, tail-gators, loud-music listening, cellphone talking, A**hole drivers who act like they’re doing you a favor. You know what I mean if you’ve ever taken a cab between La Guardia and Midtown. Because I get to rate the driver after every trip. And if enough of his customers think he lacks the manners or skills to get us to our destination safely his ratings will plunge and Uber will cut him loose. How many taxi companies use customer ratings to do that?

Guess what? Uber driver’s rate their passengers too – and I care about my score – because if I ever need a ride out of a rough part of town at three in the morning I know someone will already know I’m a decent human-being and pick me up while the drunks and suckers have to hail a cab.

I know – Uber doesn’t blah, blah, blah, insurance, blah, blah, blah… well, I’ve jumped out of airplanes from 1,000′ without a camera and it wasn’t to enjoy the freefall, and I’ve flown airplanes upside down. I spent a few years as a first-responder too – I don’t care about insurance – that’s a check to give survivors. I care about safety. Have you seen the car Bob Simon was riding in when he died?  Here it is – the driver survived. I haven’t seen the full accident report, but early indications are that Bob was in the back and wasn’t wearing his seat belt.

If you really want your travelers to be safe tell them to buckle-up and only accept rides from Uber drivers with a 4.7+ rating.

Please hit “Like” and share this if you found it helpful.

Paul’s talk – “Personal Branding and Digital Footprints” is a discussion about how people connect, learn, and grow. He introduces ideas and techniques you can apply to achieve your goals, enhance your career, and help other people along the way.

Paul Laherty leads Diio LLC’s efforts to improve airlines’ decision-support processes, and access to critical data. Over the past fifteen years he’s led teams in Sales, Marketing, and Finance at American Airlines, Advito, Travelocity, and Cornerstone Information Systems. Paul’s an instrument-rated pilot, writer, speaker, world-traveler, former Army Officer, a husband, and father.  He uses his life-experience, and an MBA and BS in Psychology from Indiana University to help people and organizations achieve significance, travel safely, and think differently. Paul publishes at paullaherty.com, and is open to connecting on LinkedIn at LinkedIn/paullaherty, or twitter @paul_laherty.

 

 

Aviation Risk Management Travel Management Trip Reports

Lessons from the Costa Concordia

Update: the verdict is in – Captain Schettino is sentenced to sixteen years in prison for a disaster that cut 32 lives short. Here’s an interview with survivors reacting to the sentence from NBC.

This is a look back at the Costa Concordia during a two-week period when commercial transportation gave the media a lot to report on. AirAsia lost an Airbus A320 with 162 people onboard in the Java Sea. The Norman Atlantic, a ferry, suffered a fire on the auto deck off the coast of Greece enroute to Italy, while two other ships, the Ezadeen and the Blue Sky M, carrying over 1,000 refugees, were also abandoned to the Italian Navy. Days later the Hoegh Osaka, a car-carrier, ran aground off the Isle of Wight; the Cemfjord sank off the coast of Scotland – without a trace of the crew. A Norwegian carrier, the Bulk Jupiter, left one survivor from a crew of nineteen when it sank off the coast of Vietnam.

The Norman Atlantic had 478 passengers on the manifest, but it’s still unclear how many people were actually on board. No alarm sounded, and many passengers were alerted by other passengers, or the acrid smoke in their cabins. Once on deck they were greeted by pounding rain, water from cannons used to fight the fire, and forty-knot winds. Survivors were lifted to safety in rescue baskets from Italian Navy helicopters operated until the ship was emptied.

Norman Atlantic

Although more than ten people died, Norman Atlantic survivors were fortunate. The ship remained afloat throughout the rescue operation – not the case for passengers on the M.V. Sewol.

The MV Sewol sank off the South Korean coast on April 16, 2014. In that tragedy, hundreds of Korean school children were told to put their lifejackets on, but remain where they were inside the ship, to avoid increasing a list created by a sharp turn commanded by the crew. Incredibly the ship’s Captain reinforced the order to “stay put” even as he abandoned ship. Most of the students were found in the cafeteria when divers searched the ship in the days following the disaster. Now, Captain Lee, and eleven of his crew are facing murder charges in South Korea.

Traveler deaths in ferry and shipping disasters are far higher than those from commercial aircraft accidents. There are too many examples where crew-member instructions doom people who, left on their own, would have saved themselves. This is true for the next story too.

Armada

In January 2012, when the Costa Concordia ran aground off the Italian coast, Blake Miller was on-board. The cruise picked up passengers at several ports; Blake and his partner, Steve, boarded in Rome a few hours before the accident. Rather than provide a security briefing when new passengers were added, the ​briefing was scheduled for 3PM the next day. ​

Costa Concordia Upright

As they passed close to an Island off the Italian coast passengers felt an impact and sought direction from the crew. Earlier that day Steve reviewed safety materials in their cabin ​and noticed lifeboats were mounted on Deck 4, but now the crew instructed passengers to muster on Deck 10 and to don life-jackets. Blake and Steve were already ​on deck 7, but ​had ​a nagging feeling that a ship that size shouldn’t have a recognizable list so quickly. Something was seriously wrong, and they both thought the crew should be sending people to the lifeboats. After a long delay they decided it was time to go, and without grabbing cellphones or jackets, left their cabin and moved against the crowd on the quiet ship to find the lifeboats.

On the fourth deck it was obvious lifeboats would be deployed – and many without enough passengers to fill them. Blake and Steve boarded the closest one. Within minutes they were told to get out since the lifeboat couldn’t disengage from the heavily listing ship. They moved to another boat​ and bumped along the side before falling the final 30 feet into the ocean.

In the water they saw people in a small raft who had jumped from the ship, and they watched as more lifeboats were lowered. ​Unfortunately, by the time abandon ship was called an hour after the disaster, lifeboats on the Port side, the high-side, ​could not ​swing free of the ship and lowering them safely ​was impossible.

I asked Blake if their decision to ignore crew-member instructions saved their lives, he replied, “No, not in this case, but most of the passengers on Deck ​10 had to​ rappel down the side of the ship and jump into rafts in the ocean, or wait to ​be rescued by helicopter. Many were still waiting on board until after midnight.”

An accident in open-water might have had a different outcome. When the Costa Concordia rolled onto it’s side, the island prevented it from sinking. Blake’s experience demonstrates how powerful intuition can be to save us from harm. He and Steve overcame self-doubt and denial, but they also ignored ill-informed instructions from the ship’s crew.

Those were two powerful forces working against them – conscious denial slowed their progress towards the lifeboats, even as intuition told them they were in danger, but the crew slowed their self-rescue too. Authority figures gave them the wrong instructions. Blake’s skepticism, and a wind that caused the ship to shift to it’s other side convinced Blake that it was time to go. Steve was already there, but their actions demonstrate that when our conscious brains, and authorities take over, we can be slow to take life-saving action in our own defense.

 

 

Risk Management Travel Management

Managed Travel: Curriculum For High Risk Travelers

Each day an employee spends on the road increases their exposure to risk. They’re often in unfamiliar places, eating unfamiliar food, and operating on less sleep than they would get at home. Frequent travelers may have thousands of times more risk each year from exotic illnesses and food and water borne disease. Add this to language, clothes and hairstyles that set them apart from the crowd and they become targets for opportunity crimes from simple assault to kidnapping. Travelers must be their own first responders, and companies should send them into the world prepared for the most likely situations they will encounter. Here’s a simple list to form the foundation for traveler training.

  1. Review Duty of care / Duty of loyalty
  2. Risk management: population statistics and measurement tools.
  3. Travel risk drivers – causes, probabilities, and responses.
  4. Travelers need to know what resources are available for them, and how those resources will connect with them.
  5. How does your travel team know where you are?
    • Methods – traveler tracking via GDS Queue, GPS ring-fencing, traveler check-ins, active outbound calling to the traveler, VIP Security Teams.
  6. Medical, Travel, and Legal support available.
  7. Communication devices – Satellite phones, PLB’s.
  8. VIP kit bags – Vest, PBE, PLB, SAT phone, First Aid; including driver and VIP transport
  9. Personal travel kit.
  10. How to respond to a non-criminal crisis – consider type, location, and sensitivity to employee-level.
  11. Weather events.
  12. Accidents
    • Vehicle
    • Other accidents
  13. Illness – acute, persistent, poisoning.
  14. How to respond to a criminal crisis – Describe roles for people, locations, and traveler behavior.
    • Target selection.
    • Assault, Theft, Kidnapping, property crime.
    • Avoid or Respond.
    • Civil unrest.
    • Terrorism.
    • Threats, bombs, and assaults.
Risk Management Travel Management

Uber is the greatest thing since the iPhone


31bits-uber-hpMedium

Uber is awesome – it’s changed my life. Enroll using this link to receive a free $30 credit. https://www.uber.com/invite/9k7pk

The technology revolution has a firm hold on travel. Los Angeles hosted GBTA2014 and showed off a lot of positive changes.  Like most American cities that grew up after World War II it was designed for cars and public transportation is well behind contemporary European and Asian cities. When I moved out of LA in 2008 you couldn’t find much downtown on the weekends, but expansion around Staples Center and LA Live have turned the concrete landscape into a city-dwellers dream. There are people everywhere now, all the time, and people need transportation

Visitors should still opt for a rental car if they’re planning to visit more than one or two areas within the metro area, but technology’s enormous reach has finally arrived in Southern California. Uber.

Cabs in LA are expensive, and slow traffic and long distances have conspired to make taxi’s uneconomic. By July, 2014 Uber had become a market-maker in Los Angeles; waits for a car were never more than 7 minutes. After two days and five or six rides, I was a raging fan. A week later, and I was ready to swear lifetime allegiance.

Uber introduces riders to their driver and their car before it arrives. Every time the “Sam in a Prius” pulled up, I felt like I was greeting a friend. I began to notice an “Uber Waive” – a practice where Uber-users flashed their mobile phones at the unmarked car as if to say, “Hey – I’m the guy who called you through the app.”

Every car that picked me up was clean. Every driver was courteous. Every fare was cheaper than I was expecting – so much so that I want Uber to add a way for me to offer the driver a tip. At one point I was so impressed that I asked a driver to travel around the block before “ending my trip” so he could collect a tip. He refused. Only later did I realize that the receipt I received via email a minute or two after stepping out of the car contained a map of our journey together – to reassure riders that they were delivered by the shortest route.

Many times the driver who accepted my request would call to confirm the pickup location and ask about my destination. Once, when I needed ride from downtown to Redondo Beeach, a 30 mile trip, the driver said that he had an appointment he didn’t want to break, and would I allow him to turn the trip down? Yes – and the next driver who accepted my trip was delighted to take me to the South Bay. How many times have you ridden in a cab and the driver was visibly irritated by something? It just doesn’t happen with Uber.

Uber provides an incredible experience – all of it positive. By the end of the week as I stood on the curb outside my hotel and watched people hail cabs – I just couldn’t stop thinking they’re “suckers” from another era. Uber changed my life.

Travel Management

Duty of Care and Duty of Loyalty

Duty of Care is the idea that Corporations are responsible for the security of their employees during travel and when engaged in activities that support the company’s interests. The European Union’s Duty of Care Act is the most prominent regulation in Europe to codify this requirement. The EU spells out how companies should behave regarding employee safety and security, but the United Kingdom took this a step further with the UK Manslaughter Act that allows companies to be held criminally liable for harm that come to their employees. The regulation applies to UK employees abroad, or the non-UK Company employees while they are in the UK to conduct business. These regulations jump-started the Duty of Care industry in Europe and North American Corporations are still playing catch-up.

Duty of Care describes the set of behaviors, planning, and actions companies must take to safeguard their employees. Duty of Loyalty is the concept of employee compliance with their employers’ efforts on their behalf. If a company makes a car service available, or requires employees to meet minimum safety guidelines, Duty of Loyalty is the force that compels an employee to meet those standards. Companies that go out of their way to create a high quality of life for during employee travel and are proactive about serving travelers on the road will generate much higher loyalty. Companies undermine their employees loyalty through cumbersome or overly-restrictive policies and should strive to strike a balance that rewards loyal behavior while not driving the employee to another company.

Risk Management Travel Management

The Safest Room in Every Hotel

You will find the safest rooms on the third and fourth floors away from the front of the building and at least one room away from elevators or stairs. Why? Simple – fire. The most common, fire truck carried, tallest, three-section ladder only extends forty-feet, and weighs 220 pounds. Fire can spread through stairwells and elevator shafts quickly so a buffer room is a good idea and high rooms cannot be reached with most ladders.

Unfortunately terrorism is another risk hotel guests face; room locations away from the building’s main entrance tend to offer better protection against blasts, overpressure shockwaves and projectiles. Blasts occur disproportionately on the street level in front of the lobby entrance. In high risk locations, it makes sense to keep your drapes closed (to catch broken glass), and sleep on the bed away from windows (when two beds are present). You should also remember to carry a small doorstop with you and secure your room when you’re in it.

It’s easy to remember to stay low in case of fire, but most people don’t understand how quickly the super-heated gas a few feet above the floor can cause severe burns to delicate lung tissue. Think about the heat you feel from an oven at 350°F? Now think about what one deep breath of air heated to 900°F could do? If you do need to leave your room during a fire, don’t use elevators and don’t leave skin exposed; put a wet, cotton t-shirt around your head, and a pair of cotton socks (not synthetic) on your hands as an impromptu pair of gloves. Touch doors and doorknobs with the back of your hand before you open them, and don’t stand in front of the opening until you know it’s safe to do so.

A few more hotel tips – it’s a good habit to make your first trips to the lobby via the primary and alternate emergency exits closest to your room (you’ll be familiar with them should you need to use them in the dark).

Never take metal keys with you when you leave the hotel – leave them at the front desk and have a staff member give it back to you when you return. And don’t leave room keys in sleeves marked with your room number or the hotel name. Always leave a note addressed to yourself or a colleague at the front desk when you leave by yourself. List your intended destination, who you’re meeting with and when you intend to return. This will give potential rescuers an enormous head start should something unplanned happen.

This isn’t a complete list, but adopting these habits will give you an advantage if you’re ever faced with an emergency or crisis while you’re away from home.

Featured Risk Management Travel Management

A Venezuela Travel Warning and an Armored Car Primer

The US State Department issued a Venezuela travel warning on November 22, 2013. I rarely comment about these, but this one caught my attention since Venezuela is a short flight from CONUS and served by major US airlines including American, Delta and United. The US State Department offers a thorough description about the current risks to travelers in Venezuela – security managers and travel professionals should be familiar with it (Venezuela Travel Warning). The State Department requirement to use an armored car for travel in certain parts of the country or at night is what triggered this note.

Armored vehicles offer flexibility and options for travelers that conventional vehicles do not. Operational experience suggests business travelers employ low-profile vehicles – not up-armored Chevy Suburbans that Darth Vader would look comfortable in. Unfortunately the US State Department warning doesn’t direct readers to a source for these vehicles or provide advice about what you should look for when renting an armored car.

Corporate travelers need to blend in – and sophisticated executive protection companies with local knowledge and know-how can help you avoid trouble. Armored vehicles weigh much more than their stock peers so a professional driver is recommended. Local drivers are extremely valuable for their area knowledge and experience in different situations. They’re more likely to identify threats well before a traveler would, and they can use alternate routes with information your GPS doesn’t have. Finally, a driver provides a layer of indemnification and protectection from liability in case your vehicle is in an accident.

Traditional armored car manufacturers use steel plating and bullet-resistant glass to protect the people inside, while contemporarty construction replaces steel with polyethelene-based materials (Spectra and Dyneema are the most common – and are superior to Kevlar). A Spectra-enhanced vehicle is frequently 1,000 pounds lighter than the same vehicle protected from steel, so handling, acceleration and braking performance are much better. Unfortunately, duties and taxes on imported vehicles drive costs up and favor local manufactures who apply hardened steel. A $200,000 vehicle from industry-leader Texas Armoring would cost almost $400,000 in certain markets. You can check out http://www.texasarmoring.com/ for more information about their products and Spectra. Although Spectra vehicles are lighter, a trained driver is still a good idea; they can get the most out of any car through evasive driving techniques and features unavailable to the average driver.

A quick search and a phone call turned up diplomat armored rental as a source for vehicles in Caracas. See diplomatarmored.com to find cars available in many countries. They offer Chevy Suburbans, Ford Explorers and Toyota Prados (the Lexus GX460 platform) in Venezuela. Prices start from $1,500 per day and include an armed, high-security driver, trained to provide high-risk protection and drive a heavy, steel-plated vehicle. Diplomat Armored Rentals provide significant value to their customers. Plan ahead and be alert when you travel, don’t allow signs with your name on them at the airport, and insist on details about the car, the armor, the driver’s training, credentials, and a photograph before your introduction on arrival.

Featured Risk Management Travel Management