Monday, February 20, 2006

Business Class for Bureaucrats?

There's been some publicity here in Phoenix concerning some City of Phoenix Aviation employees who flew business class to Europe. The European trips were taken by managers who were seeking to attract greater business to Phoenix.

It's the sort of story that is the journalistic equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel: bureaucrats living it up on taxpayer dollars. Some people have been reprimanded and suspended. Life goes on.

The criticism is easy; perhaps too easy. Anyone who has flown from Phoenix to Europe knows that it is quite a trek. If you are going to conduct important business at the end of that journey, then at what point does it make sense to make sure that you'll be reasonably alert during the sessions?

Can you fly in a day earlier to get over your jet lag or would the extra day's hotel bill be excessive? Can you fly at a more convenient time even if another time would be cheaper? Can you fly a more expensive direct flight or should you bounce through several connections if it will save some bucks?

When I was in the Army, I had to fly to Germany once on an investigation. Another officer and I flew from Washington, DC to New York, then to London and then to Frankfurt where we were picked up by a driver and taken to Heidelberg where, with no rest other than catnaps on the plane, we walked right into a meeting. Was that wise scheduling? In retrospect, I think we were nuts. We should have taken an extra day to decompress and get our bearings.

That's not what you want to hear, however, if you're a reporter.

Full disclosure: I once worked for the City of Phoenix and it is a client of mine. And no, it never sent me on a trip to Europe.

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