It’s also my worst rental car airport with four out of four experiences being poor – I’ve been rented a car with a loose drivers’ seat, had my reserved car given away twice, and been retroactively charged for rental insurance after explicitly declining it. Only St. Louis’s rental car experience has come anywhere close to that consistently bad.
Given that I moved from the UK back to the United States when I was 10 years old via a TWA flight, I’m reasonably certain that I’ve visited St. Louis before my flight log’s scope of all flights since my 16th birthday. But since I don’t 100% know, it’s best to start talking about my visits to St. Louis starting as a layover on the way to my very first work trip.
I hadn’t specifically tried to get a job with frequent travel; at the time, I enjoyed travel, but it wasn’t a goal. So on the first Monday of February 2009, I started a position on a new program; that day, my boss asked me if I could travel to Dallas a week later for a program meeting. Of course I could, and with that, I picked the same flight itinerary as my coworkers – Dayton through St. Louis to Dallas/Fort Worth on American Airlines. I promptly managed to lose my second boarding pass somewhere in the St. Louis airport, proving my travel inexperience. (I’ve since gotten better!)
From then on, I had a few more trips through STL as a layover. I also had business in the St. Louis area, but at the time I usually drove, as the drive was an easy six hours on I-70 each way, unless I had to visit St. Louis as part of a multi-city itinerary.
Nowadays, even though there is no longer a direct flight, I usually fly – with a layover in O’Hare, it generally takes about six hours either way for me to get to St. Louis, but I can get work reading done on a plane, while there’s not much I can safely accomplish while driving.
Nearly every time I’ve flown through Cleveland, I didn’t want to; one time when I did want to, I couldn’t.
My first trip through CLE was traveling from a family Christmas party in Chicago to visit a friend in New York for New Year’s week. I’d been hoping to find a direct flight between the cities, as I wasn’t yet looking to visit new airports, but a direct flight cost six times as much as flying through Cleveland on American Airlines. Cleveland wasn’t even an American hub, but their schedule that day had a single regional jet fly from O’Hare to Cleveland and then from Cleveland on to JFK, which ended up being the first known time I’d flown on the same aircraft twice.
It took over four years before I would visit the airport again; I had a trip home from Oklahoma City through Denver to Dayton, but the OKC–DEN leg was delayed and caused me to miss my second flight. United only has one DEN–DAY flight per day, so they offered me a second layover in Cleveland.
A few months later, I actually intentionally booked a flight with a layover in Cleveland, but my flight to Cleveland was cancelled, and I got put on a flight to O’Hare instead. So it was with great astonishment that for my next trip to St. Louis, I booked a Cleveland layover… and actually ended up with a Cleveland layover!
Well, my intentionally-flying-to-Cleveland streak apparently wasn’t meant to last.
It’s unlikely that I’ll see much more of Cleveland in the future; United has dehubbed the airport, which means that CLE no longer serves my home airport of Dayton. CLE is about a three hour drive away from home, which leaves it in the awkward position of being too close to fly to as a destination, but too far away to act as a practical origin airport, particularly with DAY, CMH, CVG, and IND all within two hours of home.