Getting to Austin yesterday for today’s Interactive sessions opening today proved to be a trying adventure for many.
Strong winds closed DFW Airport, a main hub connecting to Austin, stranding hundreds of attendees re-routed to various airports.
My flight from Boston was diverted to Shreveport, LA, where the terminal could not accommodate a plane this large (though it didn’t feel that large sitting on it for a lot of the day).
After several people got off in Shreveport (sans luggage, which American Airlines was committed to take to Dallas), we took off to bump our way to Dallas.
Just before taking off, I found that my Austin flight was no more, in an email from American Airlines saying: “We apologize for the inconvenience, but we have been unable to reschedule you on another flight.”
Fortunately, I had booked the flight by American Express so a quick call to them they got me on another flight, though rather than the 1:30 p.m. timeframe we were going to have to wait till an 8 p.m. flight.
The good news was that American had regularly scheduled Dallas-Austin flights about every hour, so we could wait list to try to get on one of those. The bad news is that a lot of people at DFW were in the same situation.
For the first wait list flight, there were 85 people on the stand-by list. Since that flight was already full, the entire entourage of SXSW potentials ran, en masse, to the next gate to wait list for the next flight.
By then, the stand-by list reached 111, which I had never seen, and everyone waited until that flight was filled and headed back to yet the next gate to try again.
At one point, the gate agent announced that they were delaying the flight to accommodate some people connecting via a just-landed British Airways plane.
In all the commotion, a gate agent who had given two standby passengers tickets had to renege and take the tickets back when two of the BA travelers, the Angry Birds guys, showed up at the gate to claim their seats, though they likely had no idea what had transpired.
American finally found another plane and started booking the 100+ stranded travelers onto a new post-10 p.m. flight. My first flight left Boston at about 9 a.m. and after getting a last stand-by seat on one of the hourly flights, I was fortunate to get to Austin by around 8 p.m.
Not to be outdone by travel, the weather in Austin: 45 degrees with pouring sleet and rain.
Chuck Martin is author of The Third Screen; Marketing to Your Customers in a World Gone Mobile, The Smartphone Handbook, CEO of Mobile Future Institute, Director of the Center for Media Research at MediaPost Communications and a highly sought-after mobile marketing speaker.