Planes, Trains, and Automobiles12.30.10
Well, no trains this time, but I did investigate them. I was stuck for a couple of days in NJ because of a severe winter storm -- probably the biggest I've ever experienced in terms of messing up my travel plans. I originally was supposed to fly to Charleston for a conference on Monday but my flight was cancelled (it started snowing Sunday and let up Monday morning.) In fact, I think all 3 New York-area airports were closed on Monday. US Airways originally tried to rebook me for *Thursday* which I thought was ridiculous (and add to that they could only offer me a flight with different departing and arriving airports). I was able to find a Continental flight on Wednesday which... also got cancelled. (They then automatically rebooked me for *Sunday* :) )
So, I decided to drive from NJ to Washington D.C. and fly out of here to Charleston. Right now I'm writing this at Reagan National. The big things I learned about this trip are:
- Most everyone I dealt with was super helpful in terms of trying to find alternate flights, waiving fees, etc. -- I always explained up front what was happening and they always seemed to go out of their way to help me (especially US Airways customer service. The woman I talked to this afternoon was even making recommendations on flying stand-by and the like based on her own experiences.)
- After my flight was cancelled and rebooked, I found a better (more convenient) flight on Continental. I then made the monumental mistake of canceling my original flight. The problem with this was when my new flight was cancelled - when I called back US Airways to try and pick up a different flight that became available out of DC, they couldn't help me. They were willing to waive the change fee and any price difference, but because the refund on my original flight had already been processed, there was nothing they could do. Lesson learned.
- Continental, preposterously, didn't offer phone support. They cancelled flights, rebooked them, and won't let you talk to someone (when you call their main number, they have an apology on their answering service and then hang up on you.) Wow. Contrast this with US Airways where it took 20-25 minutes at the absolute busiest to get someone and I was connected almost immediately at other times.
- Driving to nearby airports, while not fun, was actually not a bad idea. Driving 4.5 hours to get to a nearby airport stinks -- but I think I'll explore that in the future. The biggest benefit is there's far greater certainty. If I tried to putz around at LGA, JFK, EWR, Philly, or even a smaller airport in the NYC area, there's a great chance that those airports would still be screwed up and my flights would be heavily delayed on cancelled. I got to DC and (so far at least) everything seems pretty standard. I asked a few folks about dealing with the storm and most of them don't even know what I'm talking about.