Exploring the effects of supercommuting on business travellers

How ‘supercommuters’ – workers who commute for more than one or two hours, multiple times a week – cope with the regular journeys they undertake is highlighted in a study published in Mobilities.

Dr. David Bissell from the Australian National University, Canberra and colleagues, interviewed long-distance train commuters in Sydney, Australia, plane commuters on the daily flight between Aalborg and Copenhagen, Denmark, and floatplane pilots in coastal British Columbia, Canada to explore the experience and effects of supercommuting.

They found that these intensively mobile people shared certain key traits related to their knowledge of the commute and the technologies involved, bodily sensations experienced while commuting and reactions to the travelled environment.

The interviews underlined how the material geographies and landscapes commuters cross are experienced through the mediated impressions of aircraft and train compartments. In particular, the way in which wind, turbulence, waves, fog and so on are experienced as intensified sensations seemed to stand out as something especially significant to people who travel a lot.

Supercommuters acquire an impressive number of abstract and context-independent types of knowledge, such as technical flight operation procedures, skills for booking seats and tickets, and everyday life logistics, and also accumulate a number of bodily capacities to affect and be affected by these systems and infrastructures.

For example, air commuters seem to share a preference for aisle seats, a familiarity with the plane’s workings and a better understanding of and ability to cope with frightening flying conditions, such as turbulence, than less frequent fliers. They also report being more alert to bodily changes caused by flying such as effects on blood circulation and, in those who regularly sleep on the plane, an ability to wake up a few seconds before touch down due to the change in air pressure.

Dr. Bissell comments “This research shows how different modes of transport create the opportunity for vastly different experiences of commuting. We hope that by drawing attention to these insights commuters will be provided with an opportunity to reflect on overlooked aspects of their own journeying experiences and help maximise the more pleasurable aspects of their commute.”