Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The New Traveler’s Gathering Spot

As a regular business traveler for the past 30 years, there have been a number of changes in the traveling environment; some good and some not so good. Obviously, the TSA experience fluctuates between grand nuisance and mild annoyance depending upon the location and calendar. Choices of eateries is also much broader today than it was years ago.

The most stark difference I have noticed in the past couple of years is actually an update of a very old model; the phone bank. Remember those walls of pay phones that used to be the first or second stop for every business traveler coming off a flight? Remember the waiting lines and the long list of calling card digits that started the calling process.

Well, the 21st century version of the phone bank has arrived in most airports in North America; the Power Station. While cell phones have brought about the demise of the pay phone, the bundle of electronics in all our briefcases need recharging after a long flight. Thus, the urgent need for a “fill-up” between flight connections.

The good news is that with more and more airports offering free WiFi for all travelers, the need to power cell phones, notebook computers, iPods, tablets and DVD players has grown to significant numbers. What’s good about this is that a critical mass of sorts has been reached. Ease of recharging has become another competitive advantage as airlines and airports compete for the traveler’s dollars.

The banks of pay phones generated revenues for the calling card companies. Sometimes that was the same company as the owner of the pay phones and sometimes is wasn’t. Economically, there was sufficient revenue to warrant the installation and maintenance.

So how about the companies who today are offering free power and a place to sit. What’s their incentive? Goodwill? That’s the only benefit I can see for Samsung, Verizon and others investing millions of dollars in airport power stations. For that, I am grateful.

The real question is are enough people grateful such that companies like Samsung will expand their current investment and install Power Stations in all the airports big and small. If you happen to enjoy the convenience of a free recharge service, let the vendor know. Unless someone can figure out a way to monetize all the outlets in the airport, positive PR is the only incentive any company or airport has for deploying this modernized gathering spot.

The next time you plug in your favorite electronic gizmo at an airport, connect to the airport’s web site and let them know you appreciate the “electron fill-up.” Acknowledging the free service is the best way to insure the service continues to be offered.

Happy traveling!