I just got back from a trip to Indianapolis for the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) National Conference. Not only was it a great opportunity to network and learn with my chamber of commerce colleagues from across the country, but I had the privilege of being one of the session speakers, along with the President & CEO of the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce, Steve Millard. Our topic was about the importance of collaboration and how we use this in our respective communities to create opportunities, using our own experiences to have an in-depth discussion with our peers.
I was looking forward to sharing some of our recent successes in Chenango County, as well as learning more about how Steve does this in Akron. I honestly had no idea where Akron was or much about their organization; that would all change soon, but more on that in a bit.
Audrey and I debated driving vs. flying.
The idea of a flight plan that included changing planes worried me. You hear endless stories of getting re-routed, losing luggage and cancellations. We figured the best way to avoid this was a direct flight and that meant driving to Newark. We also had a strict timetable, due to the inaugural Chenango County Wine, Beer and Food Festival, which was scheduled for that Saturday.
There was so much to do and while our team back at the office had things under control, we needed to be there on Friday for final arrangements. The idea of 10+ hours in the car didn’t excite me either, so we decided to take our chances and fly.
Monday morning, we arrived at Newark airport a few hours ahead of our afternoon flight.
Things were not right from the very start.
As soon as we checked our luggage and reached security, we found out that our terminal changed, which meant we had to take the air train to a different terminal and go through security again. Our new terminal was also not very big and did not have many food options, but we figured it was only for a few hours so no biggie. We found a table at the one restaurant, ordered some lunch, and talked about the upcoming conference.
About half an hour before it was time to board our flight, I received a text alert from United that our flight was delayed for two hours due to weather and crew issues.
I don’t have the exact number of times our flight was pushed out, but it was several. Around 7 pm, after the latest “update/delay” message, we discussed just leaving and driving.
What’s another ten hours when we’ve spent more than half that time in the airport already? We didn’t want to get stuck in Newark for the night.
We decided to see if it was possible to get our luggage, so I checked the “track my bags” section on the United app. To our surprise we saw that our bags had arrived in Indianapolis at 6 pm. How did that happen? How did our bags get a ride to Indianapolis without us? It made no sense.
Without our luggage our backup plan was not going to work, so we decided to stick it out and hope for the best.
Finally, nine hours after our original take-off time, we finally boarded the plane. We had had been in the Newark airport for nearly 12 hours. I have to give Audrey props. She really wanted to drive, and I was the one who wanted to fly. Only once did she say “I told you we should have driven”.
We wouldn’t know how right she was until later that week.
Fast forward to Thursday.
We had a great time at the ACCE conference. Good conversations, great collaboration, we met a lot of people, learned a lot, my session had gone really well, yada yada.
Exhausted, but anxious to get home, Audrey and I arrived at the Indianapolis airport three hours before our flight. We easily checked our bags, breezed through security and found a great restaurant that set us up with a table big enough so we could work and eat. We ordered some lunch and began getting caught up on the week.
Just as our food arrived my phone vibrated with a text alert from United.
“You are not going to believe this” I said to Audrey. “What?” she said. She could see by the look on my face that it was something bad. “They just cancelled our flight home.”
This could not be happening again.
Cancelled due to weather conditions.
This was a huge problem.
We quickly paid our bill, packed up our work and headed back to the ticketing area to speak to an agent. The young man working the counter kindly offered us a flight much later that night that changed planes in DC, having us land in Newark around midnight.
“We can’t take the chance that the DC flight gets cancelled too.” I told the agent. “We have to be at work tomorrow. We’d like our bags and a refund”. He smiled and said “Oh, I think you’ll be fine. It’s a main hub, they rarely get cancelled.”
The look on my face said it all. “Sooo you just want to get a refund and your bags back?” He quickly said. “Yeah, that would be great”.
Within 20 minutes we had our luggage, a refund, and we were headed to see about a rental car. The first few places had no cars available, so I called Enterprise. Yes, they had a car, and it would be ready in fifteen minutes.
In disbelief, we drove the eleven hours from Indianapolis back to New York, arriving on Friday morning around 1 am. Despite being exhausted, we were both in the office by 10 am that day and didn’t stop until the festival ended on Saturday night, which was amazing, but that’s another topic for another day.
Remember when I said earlier that I had no idea where Akron was? Well, I do now since we passed the “Akron” exit as we made our way through Ohio.
Audrey was right. We should have just driven.
The views and opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views and positions of any entity that this author represents.