Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How I Escaped Tropical Storm Isaac

Did you know that I travelled to Florida this past weekend? Probably not since I posted nothing about this here, on Twitter or on Facebook. I arrived in West Palm Beach on Friday afternoon just in time to see only the third film I’ve watched in the theater this year, The Expendables 2. I didn’t see the first film, so I worried that I wouldn’t be able to follow along. It turns out that there wasn’t much plot to follow other than lots of shooting with people and things getting blown up. (Should that have been a spoiler alert?)

Anyway, on Saturday afternoon, it appeared that Tropical Storm Isaac would cause havoc on South Florida meaning possible flight cancellations. US Airways posted a travel advisory that you could change your flight without a change fee, but that only applied to flights departing on Monday or Tuesday. My 1:30 Sunday afternoon flight was still on time, but I had some doubts. Finally, around 8:15 on Sunday morning, I received an automated call from US Air notifying me about my flight cancellation, wishing me good luck in getting out of South Florida and expressing disbelief that I spent $64 between quarterbacks Cam Newton and Matthew Stafford as part of an auction draft in a one QB fantasy football league. The recording didn’t actually state the last two sentences, but I know the voice was thinking this.

Time to evaluate options. I needed to get back Sunday night to see my family and to get to work on time Monday morning. Every flight out of Palm Beach or Fort Lauderdale to Washington, either Dulles or National, was booked. US Air could get me on Monday morning flight, but there was no guarantee I would get out particularly since the worst weather was expected for Sunday afternoon/evening and most school districts already cancelled school for Monday.

My solution: rent a car and drive north. The US Air agent admired my resourcefulness (though she didn’t comment on my fantasy football drafting results) and even though everything was booked from Orlando, there were seats for me on a flight from Jacksonville to Charlotte and Charlotte to Dulles. Daytona Beach is actually closer than Jacksonville, but who knew that they had an airport? (Apparently, not me. I ended up calling US Air on the road and learned that a flight out of Daytona Beach would get to Charlotte earlier, but I would still be on the same Charlotte to Dulles flight.)

So I had a relatively uneventful 275-mile drive to Jacksonville Airport. I arrived at the US Air ticket counter around 2:05 with plenty of time for my 3:30 flight. However, I decided to ask if there were any possibilities to get into DC earlier. The agent stated that there was a 2:30 flight going directly to National (I’ve been on this flight several times), but that since it was after 2:00, boarding already started, and it was too late to get on the plane. Jacksonville isn’t that big of an airport, so I figured that I had a chance to arrive at the gate before the plane doors closed. I walked briskly to security and amazingly made it through security in record time. It was at this point that I realized that I had a legitimate chance to make the flight. Therefore, I channeled my inner OJ (minus the “alleged” murders).

I made it to the gate as the last group got called and approached the gate agent…who informed me that the flight was full. Oh well. I ended up flying into Dulles through Charlotte and was able to see my family before bedtime. Then, I picked up my car from National Airport on Monday morning before work.

I should have an exciting conclusion or morale of the story, but unfortunately, I have neither. I guess I can share that US Air's customer service folks and gate agents were extremely nice and quite helpful. Actually, I do have a unique experience that occurred on my trip down to Florida, but I’ll save that for tomorrow.

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