It had been my hope to submit reports this weekend from the Net Impact Conference, where I was invited to moderate and present at a panel today called The Creative Economy. Bearing the theme “Changemakers, Innovators, and Problem Solvers,” the conference celebrates, draws attention to, and advocates for the use of business skills in service of social good. This was the first time, to my knowledge, that subject matter relating to the creative economy was addressed at this important venue for social entrepreneurs, and I’m proud to have played a role in making that happen.
Unfortunately, thanks to a combination of the winds of fate and impressive bureaucratic indifference to my plight on the part of US Airways, I was not able to present on the panel I had been putting together since April. The first leg of my flight from Providence took me through Philadelphia, where strong winds were causing most every incoming flight to be considerably delayed. When my plane finally landed, about 20 minutes before my connecting flight to Ithaca was scheduled to leave, a US Airways representative was waiting at the gate to hand me a boarding pass for the next scheduled flight—four and a half hours later—in case I didn’t make my original connection. I booked it to my destination, but naturally the flight I was trying to make was in a completely different terminal and required the boarding of (and waiting for) a shuttle bus to get there. By the time I ran huffing and puffing up to the gate, just after the scheduled departure time, the doors had closed and the plane was getting ready to leave the terminal. The representative at the gate informed me that I had missed my chance by about three minutes, and that there was nothing she could do.
The best part of all this is that, by having someone meet me with a personalized boarding pass at the arrival gate of my flight from Providence, US Airways demonstrated that they knew who I was, which gate I was coming from, that my plane was delayed, that I was supposed to be on the flight to Ithaca, that I was at risk of missing that flight, and that it was going to be very, very close—and yet, somehow none of this translated into holding the plane three lousy minutes so that I could make my connection, even though, as I mentioned, virtually every incoming flight to that airport was delayed 30 minutes or more. I could understand if we were boarding a jam-packed jumbo jet heading to a busy regional or international hub, with numerous connections for the other passengers at risk. But this was a tiny little turbo-prop with maybe 20 seats, heading to an airport where about the only possible connection would be right back to Philadelphia.
And just to top off my day with the sweetest of cherries, my “flight in vain” back to Providence this evening took off nearly two hours late as well. The flight attendants didn’t even bother with a beverage service.
(Incidentally, almost the exact same situation happened to my girlfriend about 18 months ago, involving the same airport and yes, the same airline. Scheduled to present a paper at a conference in Chicago, her connecting flight was cancelled because of winds, and all of the flights for the rest of the day were either overbooked or cancelled as well. Defeated, she hopped a flight back to New England and didn’t present at the conference. I thought about that when booking this flight, but foolishly thought lightning wouldn’t strike twice. Well, apparently it strikes US Airways all the time.)
Anyway, my two takeaways from this experience are 1) when I speak at conferences in the future, I should leave more room between my scheduled flight arrival and the time of the event; and 2) I am never flying US Airways again. They used to be pretty decent about a decade ago, but all of my recent experiences suggest a company, from management on down, that knows full well its time is up and is just playing out the string until it’s all over. My apologies to anyone who was hoping to catch me at Net Impact, but my understanding is that the show went on and that my co-presenters, Matthew Kwatinetz and Philip Morris, did an excellent job without me. And just for kicks, here’s the slide presentation that I would have given today if I’d had the chance: