I grew up in Long Beach, California. Not much of a town, but I still have family there and go back several times a year to visit, now that I live in San Francisco. Generally, this meant flying out of Oakland Airport into LAX, but eventually a little airline called Winair popped up that was flying directly in to Long Beach Airport (used mostly for FedEx and the local McDonnell Douglas aircraft plant). So for a little while things were good and the trip from the airport to Mom's house was pleasantly short.

Winair was definately a no-frills airline, the kind one of which goes under every week, it seems. Little did I know how close Winair itself was to this fate. I flew from Oakland to Long Beach on the Thursday before my birthday and planned to return Sunday evening. All went well- the flight down was not too crowded, the weekend was pleasant, I got a few nice presents, everything was groovy.

Until Sunday evening, when it came time to return. My mom dropped me off at the airport with a kiss and I went inside to stand in the check-in line. Oddly, there was no line, just the two women behind the counter. I walked up to one of the women and said I was going to Oakland and showed her my driver's license. She turned and looked over at her coworker. They just stared at each other for a good ten seconds, the woman's mouth opening a little like she was about to say something then closing again like it wasn't quite what she meant. Then they both looked at me and looked back at each other. More gaping mouths. Finally I almost started to laugh and said, "What? What is it?"

Finally the woman spoke. "Um... we... don't fly there anymore."

Keeping in mind that I had just flown from there on Thursday, I decided to reason with her. "Yes, you do."

"No... um, we don't fly there anymore."

Continuing to try to reason with her, I said, "Yes, you do." Since she didn't seem to have understood this the first time, I went for the big guns: "I just flew in from there on Thursday."

"We just stopped this weekend."

Displeased that reasoning with her was not working, I started to get a little upset, pointing out that perhaps they could have notified me of this before I flew down. She said they had tried to contact everyone. This made no sense- my answering machine was working fine and had never recieved a message and the same was true for my mother, whom they had listed as a "secondary contact." So I ended up spending the night in Long Beach and flying back the next day, missing another day of work (at least there was some benefit from the whole situation).

They offered to refund the return ticket but, amazingly, not the entire round-trip fare. To make matters worse they filed for Chapter 11 two weeks later so I wasn't able to haul their sorry collective ass in front of the FAA. In a way, though, standing in the airport being told something so (seemingly) blatantly false with the straight face that only true honesty can bring was almost worth the whole thing.


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