I have been in the training and speaking industry for 20 years. We were living in Virginia when I first started my business and 90% of my business was local so I did not have to travel much. That lasted 2 years and then we moved to Michigan where we lived for 8 years. We lived in Lansing, a small college town and so 9 times out of 10; I had to fly to a bigger city first to get to my final destination. I was on a lot of noisy, old planes during that time as we did not have many sleek small jets like we do today. The majority of my clients were in the Midwest and east so I spent thousands of hours in airports, waiting for delayed flights, sitting on tarmacs in stuffy planes, circling because of snowstorms or thunderstorms and running to the point of almost collapsing to catch a flight.
If you are considering becoming a speaker, you need to be in good shape; seriously! You need to be able to run 66 gates in high heels pulling a rolling suitcase in 10 minutes.
Since we moved to Las Vegas 11 years ago, traveling out of Vegas has been pretty pleasant. We rarely have weather issues. If there are any delays, it is because of weather elsewhere. (I love Las Vegas weather!) Our airport is pretty much 24/7. The TSA staff and other airport staff at McCarran know how to move people quickly. We have more than 37 million visitors a year. I believe they do a darn good job and most often are pleasant.
99% of Office Dynamics clients are out of state which means I travel frequently—about 3 out of 4 weeks a month. I am gone anywhere from 2 – 5 days for each trip. 85% of our clients are still in the Midwest and some east coast. This means I travel out on the day before my speaking engagements or training, most of which are full-day programs. Jasmine is careful to book me on early flights so I arrive late afternoons or at dinner time. (A corporate jet sure would come in handy.)
I am proud to say that in 20 years, I have not missed one speaking or training engagement. I may have been flying all around the country or sitting on a plane for 8 hours because of bad weather but I always made it—until last week!
I was scheduled to teach two Star Achievement full day workshops (to 2 different groups) at an organization in Cincinnati. Fortunately I have been working with this client for about one year and they were very understanding. I was scheduled on an 11:25 a.m. direct Delta flight to Cinci. I was planning to leave my house at 9:45 a.m. Jasmine contacted me from the office and asked if I had seen a message from Delta that my flight was delayed until 2:17 p.m. I had not seen an email or text nor received a phone call. I was ok with the change and just worked from home until I needed to leave my house.
I arrived at the airport at 12:50 ready to check my bag with the outside attendant. (Normally, I have a carry on but had much to take for this trip.) He said, “Oh, you have to go inside for that flight’s check in.” I thought, “This is not a good sign.”
I got in line and was soon to be called to the counter. As I stood there, I saw a husband and wife at the counter talking to an agent. He obviously was unhappy. In fact, he was ranting. I heard the word Cincinnati and thought, “This is not going to be good news.”
I stepped up to the counter and proceeded with my usual nice personality only to find out… the flight they pushed to 2:17 p.m. was cancelled and the automated system had put me on a flight that actually left EARLIER than my originally scheduled time. “How does that happen? I have never heard of that ever?” Well, of course, I missed that flight. Neither jasmine nor I had ever received any communications on this change.
I told the agent that I had to get to Cincinnati tonight! She started typing and looking and typing and looking and typing and making faces. “I can send you through Newark.” I said, “No, I am not going to Newark.” Well, I can send you to Atlanta and you can spend the night.” “No, I am a speaker and have 25 people waiting for me to start at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow.”
She called over another agent to help her. I stood there and waited forever, it seemed. I told her they needed to put me on another airline and reiterated the need to arrive in Cincinnati tonight no matter what time. Finally, she called the United counter. They put me on a 3:20 flight through Denver; to arrive Cincinnati at 12:15 a.m. By the way, the 3:20 was delayed until 4:00 p.m. I walked over to United…. Went through an entire process with them and was charged $25.00 bag fee. (My bag was free on Delta.)
We boarded the plane on time but we then sat on the tarmac in sunny, beautiful Las Vegas. We were never told why we sat until 5:00 p.m. I had a tight connection as it was and I was in the 2nd to last row (#39) to boot. We landed in Denver at 7:05. If you have never been to the Denver airport, you have a bit of a way to taxi to the gate and the inside of the airport is huge! Even though Atlanta and Chicago are huge… Denver is massive in that it is very spacious and the concourses are very long. The entire airport is spread out and like a city inside.
By the time I got off the plane it was 7:25 p.m.; my next flight leaves at 7:40 p.m. We arrive at gate 38 and I needed to get to Gate 90! I was ready to run. For this particular trip, I had carried several paper files plus my laptop because I was going to have 4 luxurious hours in first class so I could get a lot of work done. (I had upgraded with my own miles.)
Picture this…. I am in flats but not tennis shoes. I am carrying this big satchel (no rollers) and now I have to race past more than 50 gates that are vastly spread out and I need to go on a United Express plane which is on the lower level of Concourse B. I was running on the walkways and walking fast every so often when I almost couldn’t breathe. I was determined—I had to make this flight. I ran and I ran. As I saw the end of the B Concourse, I only saw Gate 80—-oh, of course, to add to my excitement, I had to make a right turn, go down 2 more halls, race down a set of steps and run 5 gates … only to find no gate agent and the door closed (it was only 7:32—still 8 minutes to departure.) I saw the plane sitting there, with the steps still down. Men were still loading luggage. I ran to the next gate counter and asked the United agent if she could help. She just gave me a blah look and said, “We can’t let you on.”
Over 20 years, I have been on many delayed flights and often the departing flight will wait a few extra minutes for late comers to board. I even had a Southwest flight (in California) wait for me. I was the last person to board; they had called my name 3 times on the airport intercom. Believe me, I was embarrassed they held departure when I walked on the airplane but very thankful.
So, I wasn’t very happy when this agent told me too bad especially when I could see they were still preparing the flight. Another gentlemen had the same experience as I. We both stood there not believing our eyes. We headed to Customer Service at Gate 55—more walking—oh boy, what fun!
Customer Service reps were not the friendliest. While I know they have their rules, they could at least display more empathy to travelers who have spent hundreds even thousands of dollars on flights and are weary and frustrated. After all, we are talking about business. This was not vacation time. The other gentlemen spent $1200 on his flight because he was just called to Cincinnati 2 days ago to meet with a big client and now that was out the window.
Without going into all the nitty gritty of my travel woes, United sent me to a hotel 25 minutes away but at least it was nice. They gave me $15.00 for dinner. I think that will at least cover a small salad and beverage at a nicer hotel for that price. And I get to take a hotel shuttle which comes about every 20 minutes or so. I chose not to wait any longer. It was 8:30 and I was tired and hungry. I did appreciate that they were able to obtain my luggage before it got on a flight I was not on and it would have sat in Cincinnati all night.
Of course I was texting Jasmine and my client. My client was understanding and sympathetic.
Since I did not want to miss my 10:00 a.m. direct flight to Cincinnati on Wednesday morning, I took the 7:00 a.m. hotel shuttle to the airport. Checked my bag and even had time to sit down and eat breakfast. My new flight was at Gate 86. Here I go again—a long hike through Concourse B. This time, I had time to walk to the gate. It was 9:00 a.m. and my cell phone rang. It was my client. Without going into detail, she felt it best for us to reschedule my Thursday class and I suggested I just go home to Las Vegas. I felt really bad but it was the right decision based on other factors.
At this point I accepted that these classes and this trip were just not meant to happen no matter how much effort I put into arriving at my destination. Sometimes that’s just the way life is; no matter all the effort and heart we put into something, it isn’t meant to be and so we have to accept it and readjust.
Now I had to ensure the gate agent could track down my suitcase (again) so it did not go on to Cincinnati. Jasmine made her necessary calls to the hotel and car services. My return flight was booked on Delta for Thursday since that was my original airline. I collected my new ticket to Las Vegas as I learned it was departing out of Gate 22 and I had 30 minutes before boarding. Remember, I am at Gate 85! I was not going to miss this flight. Here I go again… carrying this heavy satchel, passing people on the walkways as quickly as possible and snapping pictures as I walked so I could show you just how long concourse B is because there are many eateries and little shops along the way for when travelers have hours to spend because of delayed flights.
I arrived at Gate 22 in time; boarded the plane and landed in Las Vegas at 11:05 a.m.
If your executive travels frequently on commercial airlines, I have a heads up. I just heard on CNN and other media outlets that due to the FAA not getting extra funding recently that some of the major airlines are actually going to cut the number of flights they currently offer. This means that travel is not going to get easier and will actually create more headaches especially for business travelers. My heart goes out to business travelers because they (like me) are at the mercy of weather and the airlines. We can’t control any of it and in many instances, the business traveler has to make these trips in spite of teleconferences and web presence.
Safe travels to all!