Until you deal with an airline in the midst of a crisis, it's easy to labor under the impression that when you pay for a service, you are somehow entitled to delivery of that service. But thanks to USAir, I no longer suffer from that delusion.
Knowing that there were weather-related problems, we showed up at the Ft. Lauderdale airport in plenty of time to make our Sunday morning flight. USAir personnel pulled us out of the line so everyone on our flight could check in...and then they closed the flight and let it go while maybe 40 of us were still in the line...and then they told us that the next flight out of Ft. Lauderdale would be Tuesday.
Hotel voucher? Please. Any kind of gesture to make it seem as if they recognized that they had bumped us off a flight that we'd already paid for and for which we had seat assignments? Come on.
They did say they might be able to fly us out of Charlotte on Monday night. So what the heck, we thought. We'll have a little road trip to Charlotte.
Monday comes, and we're in North Carolina, on the way to Charlotte...and they tell us that the Monday night flight probably isn't going to make it out. Will they pay for the rental car if we drive to New York? we ask.
Sure, they say. No problem. And they're going to refund us the unused portion of the ticket.
So we drive to New York...and then find out that the USAir personnel who told us that the car would be reimbursed and the flight refunded didn't have the authority to tell us that.
Long story short, USAir bumped us with no compensation, then told us that they would make arrangements that they then failed to make, as a result of which we spent an extra thousand bucks or so.
And I still didn't get to work on Tuesday.
The upside was a road trip: Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York. I think the best place name noted along the way was Yee Haw Junction, Florida. A convenience store employee outside Jacksonville informed us that Florida was warm, and we met the most happily adjusted hotel clerk in the world at the Best Western in Brunswick, Georgia, and if you're ever in York, Pennsylvania, you absolutely must have a drink at Kro's Tavern. But under no circumstances should you stay at the Days Inn in York, which maybe you already knew.
Anyway, ICFA was great. I hadn't been since 2003, and this was the last year in Ft. Lauderdale before the conference relocates to Orlando next year. So long, Rustic Inn. So long, Tokyo Boat. So long, unnervingly friendly Hilton hotel employees. Caught up with all kinds of people that I hadn't seen in a while, and Lindsay gave her first conference paper with admirable brio in the face of a strange rental-car hootenanny in the next room. The weather was fine, I caught a skink, and all was right with the world. Except for USAir.