Dispatches from SxSW, Part 6: Getting to Austin

In order to arrive in Austin by the early afternoon, required an early morning flight: a 6 a.m. flight from Pearson to Dulles followed by an 8:43 a.m. flight from Dulles to Austin. Here’s the scene that greeted me when I arrived at Pearson at 4:30 a.m.:

pearson line 1

The terminal was already quite full and the self-serve check-in machines were all out of commission. It was time to exercise every unfair advantage I had at my arsenal: a little schmoozing with the gatekeeper of the ticket line-up, Aeroplan Elite/Star Alliance Gold status from jetting about too much and a NEXUS pass, which cut down the US Customs Experience from a half-hour wait in a long line to 10 seconds at a kiosk.

I wish I could shower at 43,000 feet! I need to work on an excuse for Shopify to send me to Dubai:

pearson line 2

I put the time I saved skipping check-in and customs lines to good use: some cereal, fruit, coffee and peace and quiet at the Air Canada lounge before descending into the madness of the “puddle jumper” waiting room.

air canada lounge pearson

Puddle-jumper ahoy! Gold status let me board the plane before the hoi polloi:

jet at pearson

I spent most of the hour-and-a-half flight asleep. I woke up in time to shoot this picture on the approach to Dulles:

arriving at dulles

At Dulles, I transferred to an A319. I ended up in the second-last row, deep in United’s “Economy Minus” section. I’m only 5’11”, and note that my knees touch the seat ahead of me — and that’s when the person in front of me isn’t reclining!

united economy minus

I try to avoid United — they’re practically leading the crusade to destroy air travel, from stealing legroom to merging with Continental to create the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of crappy airlines to their recent web debacle — but there were no other reasonable flights available.

Alexis Ohanian, founder of Hipmunk, the hotel and flight-booking site that lets you sort flights by “agony”, was on my Dulles-to-Austin flight, in my row. “Were you going for maximum agony?” I quipped, to which he replied with a weak, very sleepy chuckle. We spent most of the flight unconscious.

A turbulent two and a half hours later, we arrived in Austin:

austin airport

Saul Colt, spokesmodel for Freshbooks, greeted SxSW attendees at baggage claim.

saul colt

Freshbooks organized bus rides to take attendees from the airport to the Austin Convention Center and nearby hotels. These bus rides didn’t cost us any money; all we had to do was listen to a 30-second pitch for Freshbooks before the bus pulled away from the airport:


I hopped off the bus at the Convention Center, got my speaker’s badge and lunch and then headed to the condo that I’d rented via AirBnB. It’s really nice:

airbnb 1

Our host even left some nice “Welcome to Austin and my home” stuff for us. Good thing I brought some good ol’ Canadian maple syrup as a hostess gift:

airbnb 2

Here’s a view of the kitchen where we’re staying. I have got to get me a set-up like this:

airbnb 3

And here’s the bedroom. Because I get more travel perks than most of my coworkers, when I share accommodations with them, I tend to give them the good place to sleep, to balance the scales a little. Besides, I can use all the karma I can get!

airbnb 4

If you’d like to know more about the place I’m renting (and perhaps would like to rent it when you’re down in Austin), here’s its AirBnB listing.

Next: AirBnB etiquette, from a special guest blogger!

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