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STRATEGY

How to Work While Stuck at an Airport

Next time your layover becomes a long night, work your way through it.
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Am I the only one who thinks airports, like islands, are not the most productive place to conduct business? For one thing, layovers usually aren't long enough to get work done.

But let's assume for a moment you are stuck at an airport and you've just got to do your work. Consider this: More and more of the airlines are now offering one-day passes to their business lounges. Different airlines have different clubs and policies, but several do offer access for a nominal fee. Do your research, because a club means access to a business center equipped with desks, dataports, computers, wireless hot spots, faxes: all of the business travel goodies lacking in the common area in the main terminal.

If you're a club member, you can often bring a guest. One caveat: Check on club hours; some begin shutting their doors at 8 PM, depending on the airport. (And don't forget to score whatever snacks, etc., you need out in the terminal before those shops close.)

If you don't get into an airline club, there are other options, although none nearly so attractive, convenient, or comfortable. The Internet kiosk is one such alternative. But these tend to be few and far between, and not inexpensive besides.

After the club and the kiosk, there is a yawning gap in service for dedicated laptoppers.

What it boils down to is a competition for plugs. Yes, we're talking electrical outlets. The closer to your gate, the less likely you'll be to find one unfilled by someone's power cord. Consider bringing a compact surge suppressor, power strip, or extension cord to share that electric moment. If you don't need to camp at your gate, explore relocating to one of the less busy restaurants in the terminal, where you'll often find an open outlet.

In fact, when peace and calm are at a premium, check out another gate or terminal.

An extra laptop battery is an invaluable accessory for those times when you can't locate a convenient outlet. By the same token, a USB flash drive comes in handy when you find a business center and just want print a document without having to restart your laptop.

Some road warriors find they can get by with only a cell phone or a Blackberry and a flash drive. The tradeoff is weight and bulk for online access and the security of having your office in your shoulder bag. Of course, when you venture into public with your laptop you have to concern yourself with the security of the device itself as well as what's on the device's screen. Roving eyes can gaze on important company data, which is all the more reason to invest in a top-flight privacy filter.

Just remember -- if you're going to take a nap, your feet belong atop the laptop bag.

When you arise from your snooze in a place where you've been working for a while, make very sure to survey your temporary work zone before moving on, because, inside the terminal's warm friendly confines it is surprisingly easy to forget a coat or hat.

But let's say you're traveling the non-laptop route. Road warriors have downtime. Lots of it. Airports are perfect for those cram sessions to do the administrative stuff you've been putting off -- whether it's your expense reports or budgets, updating an address book, or catching up on business reading. It's stuff that just requires time and a chair.

You'll need a bit more than that for a good phone call. You'll need quiet. Places to get away from the ambient noise can include the airport lounge or even a spot near the ATM. Just a word of caution about scheduling cell phone conference calls in an airport: You may find yourself interrupted by loudspeaker gate announcements at the most inconvenient time.

That cell phone is invaluable when that announcement is about your flight cancellation. Prompt action to ring the airline or your travel agent and schedule a new flight actually can prevent you from getting stuck at the airport in the first place. But if stuck you find yourself, be nice to your gate agent. You never know when an upgrade will come up.

Getting cancelled also offers an unequalled opportunity for conversation with those on your flight. After all, many are road warriors, too, and many a business relationship has been struck up while marooned. You just never know who you'll meet there. So share business cards and contacts. Don't underestimate the power of networking on your island.

Last updated: Sep 1, 2006




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