I recently had the joy of flying to Africa with one of our charity clients. We were on our way to make a tv commercial, with a very stripped down crew. Just creatives, producer, director, cameraman and soundman. Oh yes, we meant business all right. We just weren't flying it.
It came as news to me, but charities still benefit from what are known as 'missionary rates' from some airlines. Those rates determined our choice of carrier. How quaint, I thought as I checked in our baggage at the Ethiopian desk in Terminal 3.
Now, you may not know this, but Ethiopian are engaged in what a planner would no doubt call a 'major strategic repositioning exercise.'
In case there are still any non-planners out there, it means they've dropped the word 'airways' from their name, and they've decided they 'no longer want to be known for doing what they used to do and they'd much rather be known for doing something else entirely if you don't terribly mind.'
I was reassured to find this desire to explore pastures new hadn't extended to stopping flying aeroplanes to places in Africa. But it had gone as far as making all the aeroplanes fly via a central 'hub', Addis Ababa, no matter where else they were going.
I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised, because 'hubs' of course, are always a key concept in 'major strategic repositioning exercises'. (Without hubs you can't have interlinking strategic wheels later in the project, but I digress.)
So there I was, flying missionary rates in economy class, in a middle seat athwart the toilet block, going to Zambia via a 'hub' in Ethiopia and a further 'hub' (hublet?) in Zimbabwe.
And then it struck me: 'how exactly did the sound man get an upgrade?'
He did it by joining the Ethiopian loyalty scheme, of course. Sheba Miles. Good to know, when you've got another eight hours of middle-seat flying to Harare waiting for you at your hub. And only the prospect of regular helpings of an inflight meal known only as 'beefishchicken' to look forward to.
Luckily for me, the in-flight entertainment (or magazine, as you might call it) contained an advertisement for Sheba Miles. God bless direct response technique; it even contained a pop out temporary membership card.
But how could I make sure I absolutely, certainly, for sure got that upgrade? How to make the most of those missionary rates? Meet Lord Sir Bishop Simon Robinson, MD.
(By the way, it didn't work out. But then I managed to persuade my art director to have a go in the middle seat for the next leg of the trip. Oh, and the soundman paid for his luck by answering to the nickname 'business' for the rest of the trip). What goes around, comes around.