Sports travel, for both teams and their fans, just got easier and faster. Of course, there have always been charter buses, cars and commercial flights to get teams, alumni and spectators to their games. Athletic departments and event planners could choose to charter a flight, but considering that most airline charters reuse commercial planes after the day’s main flights, they were stuck with inconvenient flight times. They could also use private airlines, but most use small planes that seat 10 people or fewer. So many options, but frequently none are quite right. Sports Destination Management found a company that fills that void. With a fleet of 30 dedicated planes in both 41- and 50-seat configurations, ExpressJet has made the logistics of sports travel a whole lot simpler. These planes are large enough to allow the entire team to travel together, and are small enough to fly into the private terminal at most airports. These flights can also take advantage of the TSA 12-5 Standard Security Program, which prescreens the passengers in advance. This means that travelers can take a bus directly to the tarmac, arrive at their destination and board another bus ready to take them to the game. It’s that easy, which is why colleges and professional sports, as varied as NASCAR, the NHL and Minor League Baseball, have embraced this means of travel. The company doesn’t charge extra for baggage and it’s a comfortable way to travel – the legroom on the 41-seat planes is equivalent to first class on 737-800’s. Keeping Student Athletes in School Longer Probably the biggest benefit of chartered flights is the Ability to keep college athletes in school longer, the goal of virtually every athletic director. However, most commercial carriers don’t offer the time flexibility that ExpressJet does. “Our planes leave after their classes are done for the day. That’s the value we bring to college sports,” said Cathy Harris, senior director of corporate aviation at ExpressJet. “By being able to schedule a plane as easily as a bus, teams can minimize the amount of time spent traveling, tipping the ‘student athlete’ balancing act back to ‘student,’ ” added Harris. Giving the Professional Athlete More Time at Home With a chartered, direct flight, professional athletes don’t have to worry about the hassle and time spent on connecting flights – a boon to those in smaller markets, as well as expensive baggage surcharges or overnight stays because the game ended after the last commercial flight of the day. Harris added, “For professional athletes, we provide a better quality of life, getting them back to their families at night.” One professional team that uses them is the Memphis Redbirds, a Triple-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team. “We started using ExpressJet because it’s the most convenient way to fly. It doesn’t get much easier than having the bus pull up to the plane, the players get on the plane and take off,” said Kyle Parkinson, PR manager of media relations for the Redbirds. He added, “With excess baggage fees seemingly rising every day, ExpressJet’s price tag is right there with commercial flights. And from a time standpoint, there is no beating it.” A New Fan Favorite Another group embracing the convenience and ease of ExpressJet are sports fans. Rather than spending a long weekend devoted to a game, they simply show up at the airport for a day of fun – and are home that evening. ExpressJet has partnered with Premiere Global Sports’ College Division to offer alumni fan packages. “From a financial standpoint, it’s similar to spending a weekend, with gas, meals, hotels and the rest – but time savings is immense. You have all the fun and convenience, and relatively the same price,” said Christy Bruce, executive VP at Premiere Global Sports. By offering comfort, convenience, reliability (ExpressJet boasts of a maintenance reliability of 99 percent, putting it in the top three for domestic, commercial carriers) and oftentimes a cost savings, chartered flights ExpressJet-style are soon going to be the only way to get athletes and their supporters to their destination – and back. SDM To learn more about ExpressJet charter, please visit www.expressjet.com/ charter.
Published by Due North Consulting, Inc.. View All Articles.