How To Work On Planes Like A Boss

A week ago I wrote about a Delta Air Lines passenger working while standing in his coach seat, turning the seat into a standing desk. That’s a great hack, it’s great for the back, though it can annoy your neighbors and may not turn out well in turbulence. It’s the move of a dedicated, upwardly mobile junior executive or consultant.

On the other hand this is inflight productivity move of a true boss: bring all of your emails printed out onto the plane for some uninterrupted work time.

This is a JSX flight, so the passengers showed up just 20 minutes prior to departure, didn’t have to clear full security, and departed from a private terminal. JSX should be nearly done installing free StarLink internet on their full fleet of ERJ-145 aircraft.

So this is a passenger who doesn’t waste time, and would have had access to satellite internet. Instead, he crushed his emails old school.

The most successful person I’ve ever met has his emails printed out by his assistant. If he’s asked to approve something, he initials his approval on the paper and the assistant scans it and emails it back. He doesn’t waste time on an inbox, or care about things like ‘inbox zero’.

This JSX passenger has the right idea:

Many years ago I would keep a paper file of ‘long reads’ I’d printed out and bring it with me on flights. Then a little over 20 years ago I started emailing things to myself that I could fully download and read on my blackberry inflight. That way I was less encumbered. The introduction of inflight internet 15 years ago changed my life.

Paper is no longer my style, but I’ve also never been able to leverage myself effectively with an assistant. Years ago when I first shared an assistant at work, they somehow stopped being my assistant. I never used their help, I wouldn’t even relinquish booking of my travel…

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. Being DC-based I see attorneys or political types with stacks of printouts to mark up on nearly every flight. I guess this might be less common / more newsworthy in other markets, based on how fascinated the tweeter is?

    Also, ditto on not letting an assistant touch my travel bookings. Whenever they offer I politely decline, and colleagues think I am crazy for booking my own. But they will pry the online booking tool from my cold, dead hands!!!

  2. Maybe I’m just old school but, even though I was in IT for almost 40 years, there is no substitute for a printed out document in some case. I have no problem reading emails, articles, etc online but in my line of work I did a lot of contract review, edits and approvals. It just worked better for me to have a printout of the agreement so I could mark it up and then edit the online document with changes marked for distribution.

  3. As much as it would be great to simply relax on a flight… it really is a great time to catch up on work, especially emails. I always take a notepad and pen with me and jot down ideas when flying, especially solo, such a great time to think and be creative.

    Chuckling at the tweets regarding the guy going through email printouts, that Whiskey was a great reward at the end of it all!

  4. Echo echo echo the printout mode on the plane. Easier to read and review and can communicate all the thoughts when on the ground. Also use that time to read some of the professional and trade rags that still arrive in the mail to pick up some of the latest best practice nuggets.

  5. Sometimes paper is better, but more often than not, it is people who just don’t want to change or learn new technologies. Also, I have not let an assistant touch my travel arrangements in decades. They made too many rookie mistakes.

  6. First, Delta (and possibly others) need to step up the charging on their planes. There’s no reason a 737 can’t charge a normal Thinkpad. It’s not even some crazy gaming laptop.

    I’ve asked Delta multiple times what they plan to do about this, and I’ve been told that the outlets are designed for “lower voltage devices like cell phones and tablets.” Last I knew those 120/240v chargers weren’t “lower voltage” but sure…

  7. Get a cellular iPad Pro, probably the smaller of the two sizes. Enroll it in your work systems the best you can and use it. If you keep it online and updated its your best friend for work or personal life. Most laptops with a decent screen are simply too large to use even in domestic first, and the software gap between a computer and a tablet has gotten continuously smaller.

  8. I don’t travel for work anymore but logged millions of airmiles and my seat was my office. First with a laptop in the mid 90’s and later with WIFI (even the slow ones) made me super productive. Especially when I could bill one client for travel and work on another client on the plane. My 3-4 hours of un-interrupted work was great and loved it! Now I have to physically block hours on my calendar or I would get nothing done.

    My favorite office. . .first class in a MD-80

  9. Really? You guys haven’t heard of Adobe PDFs or Google Docs offline?

    You can select which documents, including emails, to save as PDFs. You can mark up, edit, comment, etc. on the PDF and automatically send once you are connected when you have internet connection.

    Same with Google Workspace documents.

    Just use your 2 in 1 laptop, which you can use the screen like a tablet and keyboard for typing.

Comments are closed.