I was in Jacksonville the first week in February tending to some accreditation business. On the day that I was returning to Omaha, the local early morning news shows reported a fire at the airport (JIA). An evacuation was on, with one wag (poet) talking about the smell of burning plastic with the visibility of New England fog. A short time later, long lines of displaced airline passengers were shown as the coverage of the story continued. These poor souls were having another TSA experience. Think Ground Hog Day, the movie with Bill Murray. Imagine waking to an alarm every morning at 6:00 am only to find yourself in line at security with hundreds, oh more than that, thousands of passengers in front of you. And, you have been rejected for TSA Pre. By the time I arrived at the airport, late morning, all the hubbub was over. I did find the source of the fire. The area had been roped off – a people mover ended up getting jammed up, and no emergency cut-off was activated. Thus, the smell and smoke. (https://www.news4jax.com/news/heavy-smoke-shuts-down-concourse-a-at-jia)
I like the Jacksonville airport. It is well designed with respect to access, security, and ease of movement in one of two concourses, except when the people mover lights up. At the end of security, it is either left for Concourse A or right for Concourse C. However, Concourse B is magically missing. Who designs and labels these things?
I had two very small world stories unfold during my trip. First, I met (unplanned) a former student of mine from Memphis State University (MSU), now the University of Memphis. He was one of the business students who encouraged me to defect. I was once a member of the sociology faculty at MSU. We talked a bit, and I thanked him for his advice—he already knew that I had moved to Omaha in 1984, to join a business school.
The second story was one that made the hair on my arms, the little that I have, stand up. I was at a dinner on the first night of the visit, and ended up sitting next to an SBA official. We began to talk and we realized that were both from New York. He asked me where I had lived, and I told him “in the Bronx at 173rd and a street you won’t know, Ward Avenue.” He responded, “I lived on Ward Avenue once.” He asked about the address, I responded, “1214”. He came back with, “I lived at 1229.” We lived on the same street in the mid 1950s! And, not far from each other. He is five years older than me, so we did not go to school together. He did go to high school just up the street, James Monroe, the same school from which my Uncle Vincent graduated.
There is no direct flight from Omaha to Jacksonville. So, a choice must be made (airline plus fly-through city), and I chose to fly American through Charlotte. I had been warned about that place, but I did not pay enough attention. The Charlotte Douglas Airport (CLT) is a mess. It is jammed with people scurrying to their next flight, trying to make their way through and around one of the strangest airport designs on the planet. See the layout below. It looks like some five year old was given a set of Legos and asked to design the Charlotte airport. Twenty or so minutes later, that child came back with this design. She or he got tired toward the end and that explains Concourse E. So, imagine landing, taxiing a long time, and parking at Gate E 17 (walk down stairs, there is no jet bridge). Your connecting flight (mine) to Jacksonville is parked at Gate C3. The race is on. People mover, no. Grab that suitcase and go, fast. I should count myself lucky that my Jacksonville flight was not at B14. Concourse A is scheduled to open in summer 2018. So, some poor fool will land at the end of Concourse E, Gate E-33. Next stop A12. Call a cab. This is not an airport for an older demographic profile. Too bad, I like Charlotte, just not the airport.