Conference travel can be a real pain. When choosing a site, conference planners have to balance ease of travel against hotel prices (among other things), and neither result is very satisfactory. AERA is always in mega cities - it has to be because of its size; the conference sessions are spread out over half a dozen hotels. And there are always lots of flights in and out of places like New York, San Diego, etc. ASHE, on the other hand, tends to be in more affordable places, but flights are scarcer.
I'm trying to book my flights now for ASHE and not finding anything satisfactory. My presentation is at 1 the first day (not a primo slot), so I need to be there by then. I can take my chances by flying direct on Southwest that morning and arriving at 10:20, if all goes well. Or I can play it safe and go in the night before. My travel money will extend to cover that.
It's the way home that is more difficult. The last session ends around 6, but the last Southwest flight is at 4:30. I'd just skip the last couple of sessions, except there is one at 3 that I really want to, nay, need to attend. (I'm on the job market, so I have to be Visible.) No one else flies direct. But the layover is nothing compared to the cost - over $500 is the cheapest round-trip that leaves in the evening. That my travel money will not extend to.
Not everyone at ASHE is coming from Nashville, of course, but I suspect many attendees are having these sorts of issues. Jacksonville isn't a major business or travel market. Last year's site, Louisville, was similar.
My final option is to fly Southwest but to fly in a day early and leave a day late. My travel funds won't quite cover it, although the extra is small enough for me to swallow.
ETA: I found a solution that is somewhat cheaper and allows me to depart after the last session. I just have to fly Jacksonville to Detroit to South Bend to Cincy to Nashville, arriving 13 hours after I depart. Now that's a winning solution.