I started writing this on my 3rd attempted flight to Las Vegas for the show, a week or so ago. Later I added about the flight back home (worse)!! But, the good news is that I finally made it home, the sorry story is now complete.
Be warned, this blurb is not about all the great things happening at CES 2023, or for that matter, last year’s show. It’s about how screwed up air travel is these days. In hindsight, my travel story is somewhat amusing. It was way less fun, at the time of each trip.
Consider this a light-hearted look at the “post pandemic” trials and tribulations I’ve suffered in trying to attend trade shows. Of course the CES show Jan. 2023 just happened, but. I’ll also tell you about two more trade show trip attempts, in the last 53 weeks!
This trade show nightmare really started January 2022, when I tried to get from Sarasota Florida to CES (always in Las Vegas). Now, Sarasota airport (SRQ) isn’t a huge airport. It’s got 14 gates. It’s a busy, but a small airport. (Consider that United has over 130 gates alone at Newark (EWR) airport, in just in one terminal.)
I should mention that I have attended CES about 40 times in my life, going back to my first in the 1970s! I’ve had press credentials since about 2003. Never had a problem getting there before.
Note that this year’s CES travel experience easily beats last year’s and my attempted CEDIA trip in September. Those were both failed attempted trips, this time I made it, but…
A year ago, I spent one night sleeping in Denver Airport trying to get to CES in a blizzard (in Denver, it was warm in Florida!).
Then, this past September, I found myself stuck in NYC trying to get to the CEDIA show (home custom installation show, everything that gets installed in a home, from home automation to in wall vacuum systems, lighting, home theater and more, and finally the nightmare experience of getting two and from CES 2023 in Las Vegas. Finally It took me three days of trying to get to Las Vegas this year, and two more to get home. That’s a lot of travel considering I got there late so only got to spend one day at the show. Here’s my sad story
Home is Sarasota Florida. Our airport (SRQ) requires a change of planes to get most places, especially heading west. I mostly had the equivalent problem living in Orange County CA (SNA – John Wayne airport), where about the only east coast area I could get a direct flight to, was the NYC area.
The tale begins:
CES 2022. My plans were easy, flying into Denver, a short layover, and then to Las Vegas. Too bad my flight from Sarasota was something approaching 2 hours late in leaving. Almost fortunately, my flight from Denver to LAS – Las Vegas, was also delayed about two hours. It really looked like I would catch the flight. But…
The real “fun” started when we landed. Unfortunately there was a blizzard in progress, just starting to get really bad, as we landed after 7pm.
How did I miss my DEN to LAS, with the plane long delayed? Everything was screwed up. We sat on the ground for I think an hour and a half watching bulldozers pile up snow, and the system “burning” the snow to melt it. The best part of that trip was that It was very cool to watch, (see photo), them burn snow, but that wasn’t getting me to Las Vegas from Denver.
First, our designated gate was broken/frozen, if I recall. Then they reassigned us another gate, but that had a plane in it, and they were short teams to back it out. (Or, my memory being less than perfect, perhaps it was the other way around.)
All the while I’m “watching the clock.” As I said, my connecting flight was being delayed further and further as well.
Well, finally we got to a gate. I rushed off to the plane, had to run about 150 feet through the terminal to the gate for my departing flight, only to learn that they backed out of the gate 5 minutes before. Screwed!
OK an hour or maybe two in the customer service line trying to get some assistance to get to Las Vegas. I believe it was around midnight. Best the airline could do, was put me on an early morning flight from Denver to San Francisco, layover, then to Las Vegas – Yuk.
Short version by the time I would get to Las Vegas, then to the press room to register, then to the show floor, it was going to be end of day. All of the almost 1 dozen meetings I had set up for that day, (and for the whole show) would be missed. I was traveling in on day two, so that would only leave me day three, and most of the marketing and product types I meet with, tend to be heading home on day 3. Disaster!
I gave up. The airline offered me a hotel for the night, but, remember that blizzard? Denver airport is far, very far, from Denver. All the hotels closest to the airport were already filled. The nearest hotels the airline still had available were at least half way to Denver. And I would have to find my own transportation there – and back – in a blizzard! And be back early in the morning!
Seriously? It was time to give up. I arranged to fly back home from Denver in the morning, skipping the show last year. I ended up sleeping in the Denver airport. That was “fun!” but could have been worse.
Yes, it really could have been worse – as they had some unmarked “transit areas” (see below) with a variety of semi reclining chairs and couches. I was lucky to find one such place, and a decent reclining chair. I figure I dodged the worst, because I already passed a couple hundred folks just hunkering down for the night on the carpet, or leaning against pillars or walls who were apparently unaware of these areas. I was happy to find a decent place to sleep, even if too bright. Good for me.
Can you say “The Terminal” – yep right out of Tom Hanks’ airport movie.
After surviving the night in Denver airport, I did get them to put me on a flight back home. In summary, I got just past half way there, but no further. Since the blizzard was part of the problem the airline didn’t seem to think this was their fault (but, they did offer the hotel room), so even though I never made it to Las Vegas. The blizzard didn’t look so bad in the morning, but it sure screwed my plans up!
I survived the night – it wasn’t pleasant, but I lived to tell about it. And United did get me home the next day, but I still had to pay for the flight to Las Vegas, despite never getting there. That’s not right!
thought last year was a disaster – well, it was, besides sleeping in the Denver airport I never made the show. Last year’s attempt was on United. This time it was Southwest, and American Airlines, but mostly American.
At least in 2023, I’ll make the show. I’m writing this part while airborne, on the way there, but this year too, has been a major disaster, consider:
I was to leave Sarasota on Wednesday (Jan 4th), via Southwest Airlines. Now pretty much everyone now knows about all the flight meltdowns around Christmas in the US, but no airline had more problems than Southwest, where it got so bad that 80% of flights were canceled or delayed. But 5-6 days before my flight, Southwest cancelled most flights to get planes and crews where they needed them, to “start over.” Sounded good to me, as I figured (as an optimist) that with that happening on Dec 30th, I figured things would be fine by Jan 4th, five days later. Oops!
This is how screwed up things were:
Wednesday – Getting on Southwest. Almost made it. Our flight to take us from SRQ to Dallas, left Baltimore heading our way, but had problems and had to land. Because things were already late, my wife decided to wait in her car in the cell lot after dropping me off. I was in the terminal checking in, when the flight info went from indicating our flight would leave late, to the dreaded CANCELLED.
Check out the text notifications from Southwest – and this isn’t all of them…they are out of control… Note the toggling back and forth between 2:42, and later times, repeatedly!
Texted my wife, she picked me up. No other way to get to Las Vegas that night. Since at least 2 other Southwest flights around the same time were cancelled, when I got home, realizing Southwest still had major problems, I looked for an alternative. Now short of spending 10-15 hours connections to get from SRQ to LAS, my only alternative was Amercian Airlines through Charlotte. So Thursday (yesterday) I booked their 1:55 flight to Charlotte, with just over an hour layover before the flight to Las Vegas.
But it started raining and lightening at the Sarasota airport on Thursday (yesterday), so the control tower stopped take-offs and had inbound flights circling. Unfortunately our inbound didn’t have enough fuel on board to keep circling so after about 45 minutes it was re-routed to a nearby airport, to refuel and then return to SRQ. Too bad, because that delay moved departure back close to 3 hours. The Charlotte to Las Vegas flight, however was on time so it was going to leave well before I could get to Charlotte.. No way I was going to be able to get to Las Vegas Thursday night. (That’s two nights of expensive hotels I didn’t get to use in Las Vegas, but had to pay for, damn.)
American had an option – I could still take my delayed flight to Charlotte, and take a morning flight to Las Vegas, which was tempting as I’d be in Vegas with a half day to work the show, but since they said the problem was weather related, no help from American..
I would have to find and pay for a hotel, get to it, and from it, on my own. And I couldn’t retrieve my checked bag to have it in Charlotte. That was a pretty sucky option. Pass!
So I took another option when it finally appeared, which was to rebook today (Friday) same flight to Charlotte, then to Las Vegas. (I guess I’m a glutton for punishment.)
I almost missed my connection again, because while we boarded in SRQ on time, the airport was backed up. So we waited – took off about 30 minutes late. When we touched down I had 20 minutes until my Vegas flight would depart. And, guess what?!? I had to change terminals! (I’d never been to Charlotte before – nice airport, and in this case, most fortunately, not a huge one).
For an old guy I still “run” through airports pretty well. I made it to the plane with 5 minutes to spare! Yay. Naturally, once on the plane, they announced it would be taking off late. Figures. (That would have been nice to know before doing my airport run.) Well, they closed up the plane, but more problems:
American announced they were having trouble closing one of the plane’s doors (might have been baggage, don’t know). That delayed us by over a half hour. So, as I continue to write this I am finally airborne, on my way to Las Vegas, due to arrive about 20+ minutes (and two days) late.
Fortunately getting to Las Vegas late, in the evening – wouldn’t be a problem – my friend will pick me up – as long as there are no more problems with this flight…(like being diverted).
I sure hope getting home next week is easier. Three trips to the airport (four for my wife who had to drive back up yesterday to collect me), is just too many for one trip…
Welcome to my post pandemic world of air travel. But at least I’ll have one (short) day, at this year’s CES show… I hope to learn a lot, and publish a lot of good content about the cool new smart home / home automation gear and related solutions, on the site here. (Hey, “that’s why I pay me the big bucks”)
OK, if you haven’t tuned out yet, one more trade show trip attempt. This time it took a hurricane, an airport and an airline, to screw things up.