This weekend I went to Wilmington, Delaware, for a meeting related to planning the 2009 USA Dance National DanceSport (ballroom dancing) Championships. I really went because they were having a "thank you" party for the 2008 volunteers, and because I had frequent flier miles to burn.
When I got to Wilmington and met up with the other USA Dance people, I commented to the Competition Chairman (woman) that I didn't know if I was supposed to be at the meeting or not, but I'd like to tag along if she didn't mind. I was a little surprised when she turned to me and told me I am actually a member of the 2009 National Organizing Committee! Good thing I went out for the party :) I guess I'm dense or something. I really get a kick out of organizing dance competitions so this is a nice thing for me.
I funded this trip with a frequent flier award ticket from Northwest Airlines. Right now I'm sitting in the airport in Minneapolis, watching my connecting flight to San Francisco pull away from the gate. But it's okay -- I volunteered to be bumped. Northwest is putting me on the next flight, is paying for most of my dinner, and gave me a $300 voucher to use for my next trip. So it worked out pretty well -- I didn't pay for the plane ticket in the first place, and now they just gave me another $300.
People can complain all they want about the airlines, but if you just stay calm and flexible you can make things go a lot easier -- or cheaper -- for yourself.
Which brings me to a comment on Delta Air Lines. Not only am I traveling on an award ticket, but because I flew on an off day or during off hours or something I managed to get the outbound trip to be first class on Delta without having to spend extra miles. Usually I fly United, and have been in domestic first class on United and US Air this year. I must say, Delta's first class beats the pants off of these other two. It's the little things that count: the cabin seemed cleaner and in better repair, the flight attendants seemed happier and more attentive, the coffee was served in a nice-sized coffee mug, lunch was quite delicious with real butter (United just stopped serving real butter), and there was an excellent personal seat-back video system that allows you to pick and choose what you want to watch, fast forward, pause, and rewind.