When you are making a living by living on the road, you will become an expert on certain issues that can arise. In our case, we don’t often rent cars, so most of our problems will be with hotels.
There are several things that stand out as common areas of distress when it comes to hotels. While everyone might have a few other things on their list, and may order them differently, this is mine, and I’m willing to bet that most would easily agree on it.
Transportation. This is less of an issue for me than it used to be. At the regionals, we almost always stayed in a hotel that provided the transportation to and from the airport, and getting the vans to show on time seemed to be a never-ending challenge. Many of them claim to run on a schedule, but unless that schedule is whenever-we-want-to-o’clock, it isn’t one you will recognize. Somehow, every time I would call for a van, I would be told that “it just left the airport.” At some point you realize that this is code for “we don’t really know where it is.” The wait and frustration were always at their worst when it was cold, late, or the end of a long day with a short night ahead.
Transportation companies tend to be more reliable, and hotels themselves are better than they used to be thanks to the proliferation of the smart phone and apps that they can use to know exactly when you’ve arrived. This is a major consideration when you are unusually early or late.
Temperature control. Hotels are a constant source of complaint when it comes to getting the room temps to be comfortable. A few—not many, but a few—still only have a central control for the entire hotel, which means that they might have the heat on when the temps are just starting to drop, and that can lead to an uncomfortably warm room. Malfunctioning air conditioners are by far the most common reason I’ve ever had to call the front desk, and they’ve also led to me changing rooms more times than I care to remember. I have a couple of hotels on my personal list that I dread staying in because the A/C is just unable to produce a comfortable room temperature. Some pilots will just go to another hotel altogether, but while I’ve come close to this, I haven’t actually done it.
A few hotels have a certain A/C system that you can override to set a lower temperature. It’s called a VIP setting, and it will let you turn the room into an icebox if you want to. It will hold that setting for up to three days. But you didn’t hear that here.
Food. The biggest issue here is usually a lack of options or price. Or both. This is usually only an issue late at night or in the time between breakfast and lunch if you got in late and need to sleep. It can also be an issue when the restaurant is closed for a renovation. These days, it’s an issue because of COVID. My company has been forced to change a number of our hotels because of a lack of dining options. What helps these days are services such as Uber Eats, Grub Hub, et cetera.
Noise. This isn’t as much of an issue as it used to be, but noise can still be a major problem, especially during holidays or festive occasions when people tend to get drunk and act like idiots. Large events with kids—sports tournaments, kid-centric conventions, et cetera—can also be a problem. A number of hotels try to put crews on the same floor or floors in order to keep the noise at bay, but they can’t always do that. Not everyone can sleep through noise or fall asleep after having been jarred awake. This may require calling in fatigued, but most pilots don’t resort to that.
Noise outside the hotel, such as fireworks or sirens, usually isn’t something the hotel can do anything about, and you can’t do but so much complaining. But if it is on the hotel property, then you should by all means complain if necessary. Live music or a loud deejay is a pretty common complaint. In time, you get pretty adept at figuring out which rooms are noise-sensitive: overlooking pools, near elevators and ice machines, stairwells, fitness rooms or supply closets.
There are myriad other common items that come up in hotels, such as keys that don’t work, fire alarms in the middle of the night, or a lack of hot water, but these are the biggest issues that you will face on a regular basis. And the truth is, 99 percent of hotels do everything they can to minimize the issues, because they don’t want to lose the contract or disrupt your rest. A hotel is a home away from home, so you should be (and deserve to be) comfortable.—Chip Wright