DAVID L. PETERSON

Not Thinking Strategically …

Man sitting in airport terminal with feet up on suitcase looking out the window as a plane takes off.

I fly a lot. And since my residence is in South Georgia, I have to fly from Valdosta to Atlanta to get basically anywhere. On a recent trip from Valdosta to Oklahoma City (OKC), the inbound flight from Atlanta to Valdosta was late by almost an hour. All the passengers on my flight were aware of the situation because we were getting updates from the gate agents at the Valdosta airport and through the Delta app (which is pretty good, by the way).

When I fly, I generally just carry on a rollaboard—I rarely check this bag. But on the flight from Valdosta to Atlanta, the aircraft used is a regional 33 seat jet, so the bags have to be gate checked. As you walk to the plane, you hand over your bag. When you arrive in Atlanta, you deplane and then wait for all the pink-tagged bags to show up in the jet bridge. Once you have picked up your bag, then you can go catch your connecting flight. Now, I have done this drill hundreds of times. But on this trip, I sat and waited for much longer than normal in Valdosta for my delayed flight to Atlanta. This would have been an opportune time for some innovative thinking regarding my connecting flight in Atlanta to OKC. Just because the flight to Atlanta was delayed does not mean the flight to OKC would be too. Meaning, the delayed inbound flight to Valdosta (that I wasn’t even on) was going to make my connection in the Atlanta airport a very tight turnaround. And as a recipient of an artificial hip, I do not run through airports, so this was going to pose quite a problem.

As it turns out, when my flight finally arrived in Atlanta, there was also a delay in getting the gate-checked bags to us. Many of the jet bridges now have an elevator system where the bags are loaded below and raised up to the level where passengers can retrieve them. But a gate agent has to come and enter a code to unlock the door to gain access to that system. On this particular day, it took about ten extra minutes before the door was open and I could get my bag. I moved as briskly as my hip would allow, and I BARELY made my flight to OKC. But here’s the thing, I took an unnecessary risk.

When I had extra time in Valdosta, I could have checked my bag. There was nothing in it that I needed to have immediately in OKC. Plus, checking bags, especially on Delta, is not the hit or miss that it used to be. It is very reliable. So if I had thought through all my options and chose to check my bag, I would have been able to go directly to my gate in Atlanta, and I would’ve made my flight to OKC without hurrying.

This is a good example of how to examine all the outcomes that could occur and form a strategy to mitigate the potential negative ramifications. This process can be applied to situations as simple as potential problems with flight connections or as complex as the effects of potential legislation on your business.

Think about your life or your business. What are some potential bad outcomes you’ve not thought about before? Make a list of these, prioritize that list and start strategizing for whatever #1 is.

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