Before Cristina Monteiro, a managing director at JPMorgan Chase & Co., flies abroad, she first checks to see where her colleagues will be sitting — and then chooses her own seat on the other side of the plane.
“I don’t want to sleep with anyone from my office,” said Monteiro, 53, about the prospect of having a male co-worker as a seatmate on an overnight flight. “I’m very upfront about it. It’s awkward.”
As more women travel for business, companies from hotels to planemakers are making their offerings more female-friendly. When female corporate travelers order a late-night in-room meal at Hyatt Hotels Corp., the chain tries to make sure it’s a woman delivering the food. Embraer SA is highlighting privacy and aesthetics as it pitches its corporate jets to more female executives, and Boeing Co. is designing its planes to give all business travelers more seclusion.
Women were the fastest-growing segment among business travelers in the U.S., according to a 2011 report by Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. In 2010, women accounted for almost half of all business travelers, up from 43 percent in 2003 and about 25 percent in 1991.
In total, companies and individuals spend $1.1 trillion a year on business trips, according to the Alexandria, Virginia- based Global Business Travel Association.
Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil-based Embraer is trying to appeal to the female segment of the market by offering more design options for women, said Jay Beever, vice president of brand imaging and interior design for executive jets.
“Women are more sensitive to details,” he said in a telephone interview. “In general, the role of women in high positions like CEOs has increased over the decades — it’s a trend that all companies are experiencing.”
Many changes appeal to all business travelers and not just women, said Boeing Brazil President Donna Hrinak.
“If you’re a business traveler, you don’t always want someone next to you — that’s the wave of the future,” Hrinak, 63, said yesterday in Sao Paulo on the sidelines of the Women’s Forum 2014, a conference for leaders to discuss global issues. “In general, we do a lot of listening to find out what passengers want. And a couple of these things have helped us change our products in a way that are attractive to women.”
Hrinak cited the new overhead bins in Chicago-based Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner that make it easier to retrieve your luggage because they pull down lower.
“If you’re like me, you don’t always want to ask for help,” Hrinak said. “And because the plane is made of composites instead of metals, we’re able to keep the humidity levels higher, so your skin doesn’t get as dry while flying.”
Hyatt began testing out its ideas to appeal to women travelers at eight “lab” hotels more than a year ago and rolled some of the initiatives worldwide, said Thierry Guillot, general manager at the Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo. The hotel has a block of rooms reserved for female guests and has revamped its menu to allow women to choose smaller portions and mix-and-match offerings. It also redesigned its bar to be more open and appealing to single women.
While it’s encouraging to see the travel industry is changing, it still has a long way to go, said JPMorgan’s Monteiro.
“Sometimes you just want to go out after a long day of work and most of the hotel bars are crowded with men — I just want to relax, I don’t want to get harassed,” she said. “You learn not to go to the bars.”